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School nurses spend more time doing paperwork than with children

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Declining school nurse numbers are impacting on ch Declining school nurse numbers are impacting on children’s health

School nurses spend more time doing paperwork than working with children, a lightening review by the Children’s Commissioner revealed.

A survey of 775 school nurses from all over England revealed that school nurses spend on average twice as much time on paperwork than on doing direct work with children and young people. Some 13% of nurses stated that they spent most of their day filling in paperwork.

‘It is clear from our research that school nurses often face significant barriers to undertaking all of these roles. Paperwork, bureaucratic tasks and reactive work – sometimes associated with child protection activities previously undertaken by social workers – are reducing their face-to-face work with children to an alarming extent,’ said Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England.

The review also revealed that many children and young people were unaware that there was a school nursing service at their school.

Some school nurses also felt that their role had become reactive rather than proactive. Thirty-five percent reported that their school placed restrictions on some of the preventative work they could do.

Some 22% who answered the question also felt that some schools, in particular faith schools, were reluctant to cover topics such as sexual health, contraception, sexual abuse, bullying, alcohol and drugs.

Fiona Smith, the professional lead for children and young people’s nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, said that a major part of the problem was that the number of school nurses is falling all the time.

‘Capacity is key and these roles should not be under threat when they are so badly needed. Prioritising and valuing school nurses’ expertise would go a long way towards helping the government fulfil its obesity and mental health aims as well as protecting the health and wellbeing of the generations to come,’ she said.

Just over two-thirds of the respondents reported being assigned to over five school meaning they would be present at each school for less than a day a week.

NHS workforce statistics show that there are 3107 school nurses in England, with 1098 fully qualified nurses.

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