RCN calls for urgent investment in school nursing to help mental health fight

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Urgent investment in school nursing services is needed if we are to tackle the crisis in children’s mental health, the Royal College Of Nursing (RCN) has said.

One in 10 school children now has a diagnosable mental health condition – three in every classroom – but the RCN is concerned that only 0.7 per cent of NHS funding is spent on young people’s mental health.

Furthermore, the body points to evidence from the Centre Forum think-tank showing that 23 per cent of young people are being turned away from local mental health services.

However, despite this, a survey released at the RCN’s annual congress in Glasgow on Sunday (June 19) raises concerns about a lack of school nurses to pick up the slack.
The RCN says that “school nurses are perfectly placed to identify potential problems and initiate early intervention mental health care”.

However, the survey found that 68 per cent of the school nurses surveyed said there were insufficient school nursing services in their area to provide the care and support children and young people need.

Furthermore, 70 per cent said their current workload was too heavy, with 28 per cent saying that they work over their contracted hours every single day already.

The number of school nurses has fallen by 10 per cent since 2010. It means that there are only 2,700 caring for more than nine million pupils.

The survey also found that administration takes up much of school nurses’ time (30 per cent reported this), while 39 per cent said that they had insufficient resources to do their jobs effectively.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Mental health is a mounting problem for children and young people. There are huge variations in care across the country and far too many vulnerable children are just not getting the support they need.

“School nurses have the skills and the experience to provide a wide range of mental health support, from counselling to promoting healthy lifestyles. But there are too few of them, and they are simply too stretched. 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.”


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