RCN warn 14% drop in school nurse numbers putting children at risk

A dip in the number of school nurses could be putting vulnerable children at risk, leading nurses have warned.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that school nurses play a “key role” in delivering essential sex and relationships education (SRE) and safeguarding children against sexual exploitation and abuse.

NHS figures show that the number of school nurses has dropped by almost 14% since 2010.

There are now 2,606 people employed by the NHS in England who are working in school nursing positions – a fall from 3,026 in January 2010, according to data from NHS Digital.

Fiona Smith, the RCN’s professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, said: “At a time when children are facing unprecedented exposure to influences like pornography and sexualised advertising, it has never been so important to equip them with a solid understanding of healthy relationships.

“Child sexual exploitation and assault are also on the rise and it’s clear that many children are at serious risk.

“School nurses are there for all children and young people, providing support, encouraging healthy lifestyles and protecting those who are most vulnerable.

“They have the training and expertise to really drive forward effective SRE in schools. However, with numbers dropping all the time, school nurses simply don’t have the capacity to follow this through.

“The Government should be prioritising this expertise – not cutting the roles when we need them most.

“The RCN supports the call for compulsory SRE in all schools, but we need the workforce that can deliver this crucial aim and make sure all children and young people are safe and healthy.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Local authorities are best placed to make choices about services for their local community which is why decisions about public health funding sit with them.

“They have chosen to employ at least two and a half thousand school nurses, who play an important role in maintaining the health and wellbeing of young people.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved.