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College seeking to gather evidence on worth of health visitors and school nurses with survey

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The Royal College of Nursing is urging school nurses and health visitors to complete a survey to help it highlight their importance for children and young people’s public health.

The UK-wide survey, launched today, will collect evidence on the impact of health visiting and school nursing teams on the lives of children and young people.

“It’s important that we understand the vital role health visiting and school nursing teams have on children”

Fiona Smith

Recent studies show the UK is lagging behind other developed countries for child health outcomes, according to the college.

At its annual congress in May, members debated the recent cuts to public health budgets in England and their ability to provide children’s health services.

Since then Nursing Times has revealed that scores of school nurses in Birmingham could be facing redundancy amid plans to cut funding by virtually half and scrap the school nursing service.

The decision to decommission the service comes after the city council agreed to slash funding by £2m – almost half the current £4.2m budget for the School Health Advisory Service.

The RCN said the survey would seek to identify the “key public health issues faced by children and young people across all four nations” of the UK.

It will build on the RCN’s The Best Start: The Future of Children’s Health – One Year On, report, which called on the government to ensure more health visitors and school nurses were trained.

The report, also revealed at congress, said the health visitor workforce in England continues to experience significant reductions, with NHS posts falling from 10,309 in October 2015 to 8,275 by January 2018.

In addition, it said the number of school nurses employed full-time by the NHS fell by 23% or 680 jobs between March 2010 and January 2018 – despite the number of school pupils rising to 8.7 million.

The new survey will examine how school nurse and health visitor teams work together and how various roles within the teams manage their workload. The college said it was also seeking information on local child health initiatives.

The survey closes at 11pm on Sunday 15 July 2018. The results will “inform” a future report on the important role health visitors and school nurses have on improving children’s health, said the college.

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Fiona Smith

Fiona Smith, RCN professional lead for children and young people, said: “Children’s health services are the frontline defence against childhood obesity and poor child mental health yet the number of school nurses and health visitors are dwindling.

“As cuts to public health budgets continue, it’s important that we understand the vital role health visiting and school nursing teams have on children and young people’s health across the UK,” she said.

She added: “To help secure improved health outcomes for future generations, it is vital we gather as many views as possible.”

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