Money to address school nurse shortfall

A SUBSTANTIAL investment has been made to recruit more school nurses in Suffolk after grave concerns were raised over the welfare of children.

A SUBSTANTIAL investment has been made to recruit more school nurses in Suffolk after grave concerns were raised over the welfare of children.

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) said that for more than a decade the county has suffered from a significant shortage of school nurses.

Their fears have today prompted NHS Suffolk to pledge an investment of an extra £705,000 in school nurses this year - although it will take time before the fully-trained staff will be in place.

Bernadette Smith, an RCN steward and school nurse, said: “There is a feeling that the obesity epidemic might not have taken off if there had still been school nurses.

“There has been a lack of investment for more than ten years.”

She said there should be one full-time trained school nurse for each high school and group of feeder primary schools below it.

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However there are just 13 full time nurses covering 33 schools.

In Suffolk most school nurses are part time and deal with two to three high schools and pyramids.

“The reality is most nurses have multiple pyramids,” said Mrs Smith.

“There are nowhere near enough nurses.”

Nurses are trained to degree level to allow them to deal with counselling and behavioural matters, meaning they can help with even the most serious issues including bullying and rape.

The shortfall prompted the RCN to campaign for more school nurses. Eventually a business case was submitted to NHS Suffolk, the county's health commissioners, which has pledged to invest in the service.

Clare Jacobs, RCN officer in Suffolk, added: “We had really, really grave concerns about the welfare of children.

“We felt things were at crisis level and even the basics weren't getting done.

“Thankfully there has now been a change, but it will take a time before the new school nurses are in place.”

Does Suffolk need more school nurses? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Currently there are only 13.77 full time equivalent fully trained school nurses in Suffolk

JULIA Bilotta, service manager for health visiting and school nursing services at Suffolk Community Healthcare, admitted there had not been enough investment in school nursing in the past.

However she said she was delighted by the additional money which should help transform the service offered to youngsters.

She added: “We have been highlighting the need for this investment for some time.

“Here in Suffolk we've had a small school nursing team who have been fantastic but haven't been able to use their full skills.

“This investment will free them up.

“It will address health promotion issues from pre-school to older people in senior schools.

“School nurses will be far more visible.”

She said the new money, spread over two years, will see an extra 5.5 full time equivalent trained school nurses employed, an extra nine staff nurses working in schools, around eight more nursery nurses and extra administrative support.

She added: “We're really excited. We've already had the first lot of money through which enabled us to appoint some nurses.

“It will really help us look at issues like obesity.

“Up until now we've only been able to do the weighing and measuring of children but now we hope to provide actual programmes to support parents around health eating.”

Councillor Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk County Council's schools chief, said: "I am delighted that NHS Suffolk has decided to make this extra investment in such a vital service for school children.

“School nurses give all sorts of valuable advice to children and parents.

“Nurses help with disease prevention including immunisation and work with other school staff on healthy eating and lifestyles.”