LONDON, April 2 /PRNewswire/ --
- Unite Calls for Urgent Recruitment Programme
One specialist school nurse is looking after an estimated 6,900 children in England, according to Unite, the largest union in the country, which is calling for a massive recruitment campaign.
The latest NHS workforce statistics, based on September 2008 figures, reveal that there were 1,062 full-time equivalent (FTE) school nurses in England - an increase of 169 (FTEs) on the previous year. There are an estimated 7.3 million school-aged children in England.
Unite said this works out that each school nurse has to look after, in theory, 6,900 children.
Unite welcomed the small increase in school nurse numbers, but said that the workforce was faced with 'a double whammy'.
These are the increasing workloads due to government public health targets, such as the cervical cancer immunisation for teenage girls; while, at the same time, ministers have reneged on the pledge to have a specialist school nurse for every secondary school and its cluster of primary schools by 2010 - just nine months away.
Unite is concerned that the current government thinking is a 'school health team' in every local area, without specifying the size of that area and therefore jettisoning the 2004 promise that the 3,200 secondary schools in England would have a school nurse specialist by 2010.
Unite National Officer for Health, Karen Reay said: 'The frightening reality is that no school nurse can give the level of care and attention required by today's school-aged children with such crushing workloads.'
'The figure of 6,900 is purely illustrative, but gives a graphic image of what our members are facing on a daily basis. Parents should be made aware of this, as it impacts on their son or daughter's well-being.'
'Government must meet the challenges that its own targets have set, such as the cervical cancer programme, and embark on a large-scale recruitment drive for school nurses immediately.'
Unite Professional Officer for School-Aged Children Ros Godson said: 'We have repeatedly called for the immediate employment of 2,000 more qualified school nurses in England to give advice on issues, such as teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and drug misuse.'
Unite has also called on the government to ensure that all 152 primary care trusts in England commit money to each train ten new school nurses from September 2009.
NOTES TO NEWS EDITORS:
The Department of Children, Schools and Families information is available on its research and statistics gateway website at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000786/index.shtml. (DCSF: Pupil Characteristics and Class Sizes in Maintained Schools in England: January 2008).
If you click the Excel link for the Additional National Tables, then Table A1 has the information you need. Data from the 2009 census will be published at the end of this month.
For further information, please ring: Karen Reay, +44(0)7798-531-004; Ros Godson, +44(0)7764-655-762 (mobile); Shaun Noble, Communications Officer, +44(0)20-7420-8951 (direct line), +44(0)7768-693-940 (mobile)