Last week I came across an article about Ealing Council proposing to cut the budget for its already laughable school nurse (SN) service (23 staff for 50,000 children) by 50%. Since councils became responsible for public health services and their budgets in April 2013, and the pressure to save money has intensified, Ealing has been forced to propose efficiency savings by repurposing its public health budget (i.e. using it elsewhere). The worry is that where one council goes, others will follow, to the detriment of the current school nursing service and children's health.
The idea of reducing funding for a vital children and young people's service at all, let alone by 50%, seems ridiculous. Any reduction could not fail to impact children's health and wellbeing, but also directly contradicts other governmental initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of children (the restored universal health visiting service, primary care nurses' role in tackling FGM, healthy child programme). As a mother, it appalls me that so few children have access to a school nurse, yet schools spend valuable hours and resources on improving the health of their students: from educating primary school children on healthy eating and exercise to running parenting classes to improve wellbeing. Isn't this the government giving with one hand and taking with the other?
School nurses do much more than patch up the injured: they support and shape the health of the children who are this country's future. School nursing services should not be eroded in shortsighted money-saving exercises.
Rita Som, editor, Independent Nurse