Nurses For All Secondary Schools

Efforts are under way to recruit more nurses into schools in Wales to tackle issues such as obesity, sexual health problems and drug and alcohol misuse.

A 10-week consultation is under way on plans to get one family nurse per secondary school by the end of 2011.

It is part of a commitment by the Welsh Assembly Government to improve the health of children and young people.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has campaigned for a rise in the number of school nurses and welcomes the plans.

It is hoped the introduction of more nurses in schools will help the assembly government to reduce obesity rates as well as providing information to young people on sexual health education and substance misuse.

It is also hoped issues such as eating disorders, mental health and well-being issues will be addressed.

Under the plan to recruit family nurses to schools, the role of the nurse will also extend to engage with families.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: “The challenge of improving Wales’ health must start with our children and young people.

“Increasing numbers of children are developing chronic conditions and complex health problems and it is only by improving support in schools that we can tackle these issues before they become endemic.

“The current school nursing service is variable across Wales and may not be providing a comprehensive service to all.

“Our goal is to ensure that the health service provided to school-age children and young people is sustainable, adaptable to change, responsive and effective, ensuring continued development and improvement.”

According to the assembly government, currently in secondary and primary schools, the nurse workforce – including registered nurses, assistants, nursery nurses and clerical support – is 291.

Of these, 243 are qualified nurses, with 67 additionally qualified as Specialist Community Public Health Nurses (SCPHNs).

Nursing posts

There is currently no statutory requirement for the current workforce to hold the SCPHN qualification and the consultation underway will ask whether there is a need for family nurses to hold it.

Currently there are 224 mainstream secondary schools in Wales and currently 209 individuals – including SCPHNs – in post.

The consultation on the issue closes on 5 December and an agreed minimum standard for the family nurse service will be published in February 2009.

Richard Jones, deputy director of RCN Wales said: “This is an important announcement and one which we welcome.

“It is clear that school nurses can play a valuable role in addressing a number of health challenges faced by young people.

“They can help address issues such as obesity, substance misuse, the effects of chronic conditions such as asthma and childhood diabetes as well as support in the emotional and social development of young people alongside the teaching staff.

“However, the consultation must lead to robust policy that increases the number of school nurses.”