Overstretched school nurses are increasingly taking on child protection roles, according to a survey published last week.
A survey of 1,145 school nurses, commissioned by the RCN, found that two-thirds felt ‘overstretched and unsupported’ – with the average state school nurse having to look after more than 2,500 children.
Additionally, extra responsibilities have added to the pressure with nearly three-quarters of respondents saying they now spend a significant amount of their time dealing with child protection issues, compared with around half in a similar survey carried out in 2005.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘The numbers of school nurses working and being trained are simply not keeping pace with the level of demand. If nurses are to take on an increasing role in child protection, the risks of not having enough staff are too high to contemplate.’
He added: ‘In the wake of Baby P, logic must suggest there’s a huge problem out there that we are not aware of. We become aware of it when there’s tragic consequences.’
Last week the Care Quality Commission published a report into the care provided to Baby P by the NHS, concluding that a catalogue of failings meant a series of opportunities which could have saved the child’s life were missed.
The toddler had 35 ‘contacts’ with a range of NHS professionals and settings, including visits by health visitors and visits to a GP practice, child health clinic, A&E and walk-in centres.
The regulator said system failure meant medical records were not shared between services, and NHS workers did not properly alert social services and police to their concerns.