The UK is in need of significantly more school nurses in the near future if a shortage is to be prevented.
New statistics from NHS Digital show that the number of school nurses across Britain has fallen by 550 since 2010, with more than 100 positions left vacant this year alone. Overall, the total has dropped from 2,987 to 2,433 for full-time roles.
However, at the same time, the number of 11 to 15-year-olds with a long-term illness or disability in England has risen to almost one-quarter.
Unless more school nurses are recruited and these vacancies are filled, there is a risk that outbreaks of infectious illnesses could be missed in schools, while children with health conditions that require extra support may no longer be able to attend mainstream schools.
For example, children with illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, asthma and epilepsy could be at increased risk if a trained nurse is not nearby while they are at school, as these healthcare professionals can help to save lives.
What's more, school nurses often provide valuable support to teachers to advise them on how best to engage with pupils with certain health conditions.
As a result, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling on the government to take action to encourage more nurses to consider moving into roles in schools and to fund more training places for these professionals.
Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people's nursing at the RCN, commented: "It would be completely unjust if a child couldn't participate in school life because of their health condition. Every child has the right to an education and it is the government's responsibility to make that happen.
"School nursing is a critical service and it needs to be treated as such."
These calls come just after the RCN published an updated version of its toolkit for school nurses, which includes advice on professional best practice, as well as tips for how they can develop their skills.
Written by James Puckle
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