Schoolchildren with health needs ‘at risk’

Published on Monday, 03 December 2012 16:36
Posted by Scott Buckler

The Royal College of Nursing and Unison are calling for urgent action to protect children and young people with health needs in schools

A survey of school support staff and school nurses for the RCN and Unison shows that despite many examples of good practice, a growing number of children with increasingly complex health needs are being put at risk as staff are being pressurised into caring for them without enough training, supervision and support. This can include tube feeding, airway suctioning, tracheostomy care and catheterisation. Children with long-term conditions including asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or anaphylaxis also need support.

As teachers' contracts do not include giving or supervising medicines, the responsibility often falls on school support staff. More than one in four (28 per cent) support staff say that they do not feel comfortable or competent to give pupils medicines or to support their health needs.

Two-thirds of registered nurses who oversee health care provision in schools say that specialist care plans are not always in place. These nurses play a crucial role in developing individual care plans and providing an important link between school, home and the community.

Dr Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive & General Secretary, said the survey highlighted the risk to children and young people when authorities and schools do not have robust arrangements in place to support pupils with health needs.

"While there are many good examples of good practice, it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure all schools are able to provide safe and well-planned health care support. There is also a clear need for more school nurses, community children's nurses and children's nurse specialists to be able to adequately train and support staff in schools to meet the health needs of pupils. Currently, there is a chronic under-investment in these areas, with a recent survey revealing that one in six school nurses had found that posts had been cut in the last year."

To keep children and young people safe, the RCN and Unison believe that:

  • every school child with health needs should have an up-to-date, individual care plan drawn up with a health care professional
  • staff must have specific training for each child, which must be supplied by an accredited health care trainer and be regularly refreshed schools and local authorities must ensure they match staff, with sufficient training and pay, to the specific needs of the child
  • every school needs to have a clear policy on the management of medicines and health care support in schools, which is understood by staff, parents and pupils.

Source: ©RCN

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