The Government must reverse ‘devastating’ cuts to the public health grant and restore the number of school nurses to where they stood a decade ago, leading school nurses have warned.
The School and Public Health Nurses Association’s (SAPNHA) vision for school nursing, published on Friday, highlighted a ‘significant and continued’ drop in school nursing staff. While there were 2,984 school nurses in England in June 2010, this figure currently stands at 2,047 as of June 2021, the latest data available.
The vision also considered the impact of ‘year on year’ reductions to the public health grant. This has led to local authorities cutting school nursing services and ‘considerable variation’ in the quality of support dependent on where children and young people live, it said.
School nurse training places, funded by Health Education England, are also falling because of cuts to the budget for training existing staff, which is a third of its 2014/15 value, the report highlighted.
The vision also set out a new model for school nursing services, which recommends that every mainstream secondary school and its partner primary schools should have a full-time school nurse.
This comes after Sajid Javid urged the Government to reverse the decline in the number of school nurses in March, before he took on the role of secretary of state, amid growing concerns over children’s safety.
Other recommendations from the report include:
- Each school nursing services should be led by a nurse with Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (SCPHN) qualification, with additional leadership and development qualifications.
- A shift towards meaningful data collection and measures that demonstrate outcomes for children and young people and progress towards tackling public health priorities.
- The Healthy Child Programme should be ‘realistically implemented to ensure contemporaneous research and evidence-based practice’.
The report came ahead of the budget on 27 October. SAPHNA has also called for a school nurse for every school in its submission to the budget.
At an event launching the report, SAPNHA chief executive Sharon White said: ‘School nursing is invaluable, but the workforce is on its knees. At the moment, we are exhausted… But we couldn’t be clearer in what we’re saying today: school nursing is needed more than ever.’