Health visitors and school nurses in Norfolk are to be put through additional training in one another’s field of practice to help plug gaps in the area’s services for young people.
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, which runs the region’s integrated service for children aged 0-19 years old, had found primary school children were not getting the care they needed, especially those with special educational needs and disabilities.
“The dual trained staff will be working with primary schools who feed into the most vulnerable secondary schools”
According to the trust, this was because health visitors were focused on children aged 0-5, while school nurses were mainly working with teenagers.
The nurse leading the work told Nursing Times that 5-11 year-olds were, however, not having their needs met in a “robust” way.
Andrea Graves, clinical lead for Norfolk’s children and young people’s services, said the introduction of the dual-trained nurses would help to prevent children from developing problems – particularly in mental health – by the time they were teenagers.
“In Norfolk, we have some secondary schools that are ‘high needs’ and require high intervention,” she said. “So the dual trained staff will be working with primary schools who feed into the most vulnerable secondary schools.
“This will plug the gap we have had among the 5-11 year olds where there are already potential concerns. So it is about early intervention and about supporting those families before they become teenagers and get to a crisis point,” she said.
“[This] is about early intervention and about supporting those families before they become teenagers and get to a crisis point”
A total of 10 nurses – equal to 13% of the public health nursing workforce within the trust – will have completed the dual training by the summer and will begin working in their new roles by September.
To meet Nursing and Midwifery Council requirements, the nurses will complete a 10-week placement accompanied by a portfolio of evidence, through a course provided by the University of Suffolk.
Staff will not be able to re-register with the NMC in the other role, but the training is designed to “enhance” their skills, according to Ms Graves.
The trust has only selected nurses with at least two years’ experience as a public health nurse, she added.
When asked whether the trust would be hiring additional staff to cover the caseloads that the dual-trained nurses will leave behind, Ms Graves said the services was “managing their vacancies locally”.
She said the trust worked under a “corporate” model that meant, beyond the first three health visitor visits, children did not always see the same nurse, because caseloads were shared between team members.
She stressed to Nursing Times that the aim of dual-training nurses was to improve outcomes for children, and was not part of a cost-cutting exercise.