There must be greater investment to boost the number of school nurses following a drop of nearly 30% since 2010, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.
There are only 2,101 school nurses working among 32,113 schools, according to figures from May 2019 – down from 2,987 at the same point in 2010.
The RCN blamed ‘significant’ public health budget cuts for the continued decline in numbers and raised concerns about available support for vulnerable pupils.
It highlighted that students often turn to school nurses before anyone else and that fewer school nurses leaves many children with fewer people to turn to about their most difficult issues.
The College said: ‘[School nurses] can, for instance, be uniquely placed to recognise the signs of risk-taking behaviour and vulnerable children and young people who might be at risk of abuse by others. Such children may not have positive role models and a school nurse may be the first person they turn to for help.’
Fiona Smith, RCN professional lead for children and young people said: ‘As we see cuts to public health funding for local authorities, we continue to see the number of school nurses decline.
‘With further cuts to nursing post-registration training we are unlikely to see the numbers grow meaning many children and young people missing out on the support they need.
‘It is vital decision makers learn the lesson that long-term cuts have a life-long impact. Our pupils need the positive benefits school nurses bring and it is time they received the funding they deserve.’
The NHS Long Term Plan released earlier this year outlined investment in services for children, including new mental health support in schools and colleges.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We want children to get the best start in life and school nurses play a vital role in supporting their health and wellbeing.
‘Local authorities are best placed to make decisions for their communities and we are giving councils more than £16 billion to commission public health services, including school nurses, over the current five-year spending review period.’