The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for urgent investment in school nursing to tackle the crisis in children’s mental health.
According to research from the RCN, while at least three children in every classroom now suffer from a mental health problem, only 0.7% of NHS funding is spent on young people’s mental health.
Meanwhile, 23% of young people are being turned away from local mental health services.
To ease pressure on the NHS, the RCN has said more should be made of school-based care, as school nurses are well placed to identify potential problems and initiate early intervention.
However, an RCN survey of school nurses shows that, without substantial investment in school nursing, it will be impossible to provide good mental health support by these means.
The survey found that the school-nursing workforce is facing increasing pressures as their numbers have fallen by 10% since 2010 to only 2,700, left to care for more than 9 million pupils.
Meanwhile, 68% of those surveyed said there were insufficient school nursing services in their area to provide the care and support young people need.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Mental health is a mounting problem for children and young people.
“There are huge variations in care across the country and far too many vulnerable children are just not getting the support they need.
“School nurses have the skills and the experience to provide a wide range of mental health support, from counselling to promoting healthy lifestyles.
“But, as our survey shows, there are too few of them, and they are simply too stretched.”
She added: “Only by investing in school nursing and wider mental health services, can this crisis be tackled and children be given the best chance possible of leading happy and healthy lives.”
The survey also found that 70% of school nurses said their current workload was too heavy, while 28% work over their contracted hours every day.
Meanwhile, 30% said admin took up most of their time and 39% said that they had insufficient resources to do their jobs effectively.