School nurses will be a “highly accessible and visible” presence in Birmingham despite cuts to funding, say managers and commissioners.
Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation Trust was awarded the £4.2million per year contract to run the new service - now called the school health advisory service - having previously provided the city’s school nursing service.
However, this represents a funding decrease of about 10% compared with the former school nursing contract, which ended in March.
The council, which commissions the service, and the trust said it had been designed to ensure a “highly accessible and visible presence” with a nurse visiting each secondary school at least once a week and each primary school at least once a fortnight.
“We are making it as easy as possible for children with needs… to access further assessment and intervention from a school nurse”
Vulnerable children and families, such as asylum-seekers and refugees, will have the chance to see nurses outside school at weekly community clinics. School nurses will also run weekly clinics in youth offending services and visit some families at home.
The service will work with children’s charities Barnardo’s, Spurgeons and Family Action to ensure more intensive support for those who need it.
The new model is based on six care pathways including those covering weight, emotional health, sexual health, and drugs, alcohol and smoking.
“We are making it as easy as possible for children with needs under one or more care pathway to access further assessment and intervention from a school nurse,” said Geraldine Goodall, acting operational director for the new service, who said school nurses had been involved in shaping it from the outset.
Teachers and other school staff will be encouraged to refer children with health concerns to the school nurse while secondary school pupils will be able to access extra help themselves through weekly drop-in sessions.
Ms Goodall said the service was also being publicised “as widely as possible” to GPs and other health services, social services and community groups.
“All school nurses were consulted and updated throughout the process.We find this a very exciting time to be a school nurse in Birmingham”
“Assessment may identify issues that can be effectively addressed through a brief school nurse intervention under a care pathway,” she said.
“Where assessment or review indicates a need for additional targeted help the school nurse will work with the child to identify appropriate services and refer on.”
One innovation aimed at making school nurses more accessible is a new initiative, set to launch in September, where children can contact nurses by text. It will be available five days a week, all year round.
“The school nurse can engage in a text conversation with the young person and text back with advice or signposting,” said Ms Goodall. “They can also offer the young person an opportunity to see a school nurse face-to-face in school or in a community clinic.”
An official launch of the school health advisory service took place last week on 12 July but it has been running since April.
The trust’s interim associate director of universal children’s services Carol Rogerson said the feedback so far had been positive but there would be “ongoing improvements”.
“All school nurses were consulted and updated throughout the process,” said Ms Goodall. “We find this a very exciting time to be a school nurse in Birmingham. Our service has been designed in consultation with young people to ensure we are delivering services they need at the right time, in the right place and by the right staff.”
Birmingham has an established “school nurse ambassador” scheme, designed to involve children in shaping services and spreading health messages among their peers by setting a good example.
The contract awarded to Birmingham Community Healthcare FT lasts for two years and comes with options to extend it for two further 12-month periods.
A trust spokesman said there were no redundancies or job losses as a result of the service redesign.
“The nurses provide an invaluable service in our schools and our challenge is to work together to deliver a service that meets the needs of all young people in the city,” said Birmingham City Council cabinet member for health and social care Councillor Paulette Hamilton.