Fall in school nurses prompts fears that children’s lives are ‘at risk’

Eleanor Busby

The number of nurses in schools has fallen in recent years, prompting fears that pupils’ lives are being put “at risk”.

Teaching assistants are being asked to carry out medical interventions, such as injections, without adequate training or support, the GMB union, which represents school staff, has said.

Data, obtained by the GMB union through a Freedom of Information request, shows the number of school nurses has fallen by 11 per cent in four years – from 472 in 2015 to 420 in 2018.

Separate NHS figures show that school nurses working out of GP practices and health centres have also dropped by nearly a fifth since 2015, from 2,732 to 2,205 in 2018.

Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of pupils has increased placing extra pressure on staff.

Some children with complex and potentially life-threatening needs are at greater risk due to cuts in specialist support, union officials have warned.

It comes after a separate report from inspectorates warned that a shortage of school nurses meant signs of sexual abuse within families were being missed.

Karen Leonard, national schools officer at the GMB union, said: “The uncomfortable truth is that in too many schools children are not getting the medical support they need.”

Ms Leonard added: “School staff should not administer medicine unless they feel fully confident in their training and lines of accountability, but often they are placed in uncomfortable situations.

“This is a highly stressful state of affairs for children, parents, and staff, who fear they will be blamed if something goes wrong. It is not alarmist to say that lives are at risk.”

The union is calling on the government to conduct an investigation into the impact of these job cuts and for additional funding to be brought forward to fund training and to replace posts that have been lost.

A Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: “It is important school nurses are available to make sure children get the best start in life.

“Local authorities are best placed to make decisions for their communities and we have given them £3bn this year to spend on public health services, including the provision of school nurses.”

Read more

Children at risk as agencies ‘too afraid’ to talk about sexual abuse