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School nurses are crucial to identifying children's mental health issues

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School nurses are well placed on mental health School nurses are well placed to tackle mental health issues in children

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling for urgent investment in school nursing to tackle the crisis in children's mental health.

The number of school nurses has fallen by 10% since 2010 to only 2700 caring for more than 9 million pupils. The RCN survey revealed that 70% of respondents said their current workload was too heavy, while more than a quarter work over their contracted hours every single day. Almost a third said that admin took up more of their time than direct contact with children. Nearly 40% said they had insuffient resources to do their jobs properly.

'School nurses have the skills and the experience to provide a wide range of mental health support, from counselling to promoting healthy lifestyles. But, as our survey shows, there are too few of them, and they are simply too stretched,' said Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.

'All children deserve access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Only by investing in school nursing and wider mental health services, can this crisis be tackled and children be given the best chance possible of leading happy and healthy lives,' she added.

Caroline Voogd the editor of the British Journal of School Nursing, said: 'It is clear that CAMHS cannot cope and that we are letting down children and young people as a result. Increasingly high thresholds for referral mean that only the most severe cases are being dealt with. Schools also lack the expertise to support these very vulnerable young people. School nurses, as public health professionals working with schools, are ideally placed to fill this growing gap in provision.

While the findings of the RCN survey do not come as a surprise, I strongly believe that school nurses should be delivering mental healthcare. Part of the £1.25 billion pledged by the government for perinatal and children and young people’s mental health should be invested in school nurses so that they are properly trained and services adequately staffed to deliver effective prevention and early intervention.'

School based- care has been suggested as a possible solution to the rising levels of mental health issues in schools and school nurses are perfectly placed to identify potential problems and intitate early intervention mental healthcare. However, the RCN survey shows that without substantial investment in school nursing, it won't be possible to provide effective mental health support.

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