In our latest leader article (JFH 26.4), we raised concerns that public health cuts are already adversely affecting services on the front line. Certainly school nursing services appear to be bearing the brunt of the cuts - with some areas considering a 50% reduction and others even considering a total decommissioning of services.
Sharon White, Professional Officer for SAPHNA, called the cuts “unethical and unacceptable” and wrote to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to request a face-to-face meeting in order to demonstrate the vital contribution school nurses make to improving the outcomes of children and young people. She also invited him to see the work of school nurses on the frontline.
Earlier this week SAPHNA received the Prime Minister’s answer. A civil servant from the DfE replied, passing on the Prime Minister’s regret that he would be unable to meet due to “severe pressures on his diary”. Instead, the letter acknowledged the contribution school nurses make to ensuring the adequate care of pupils with medical conditions, while ignoring most of the points carefully specified in the SAPHNA letter.
Sharon White said: “The long awaited response to SAPHNA’s letter to the PM regarding school nursing service cuts has left me, the school nursing community and our key partners speechless, causing a Twitter storm and an email box unable to cope. The letter is nothing but an ignorant insult to specialist public health school nurses, invested in and trained by public monies, but much more importantly a clear statement of the 'offer' that our government and DfE feel we need to be delivering to children, young people and families. This somewhat explains and demonstrates their intent to continue to ignore the fact that England retains the crown as having the worst health outcomes for children and young people across the whole of Europe.
“Unlike many of our European neighbours we are not a poor country, nor are we war-torn; rather we choose to disinvest in early help and prevention, continuously wasting 'sticking plaster' monies, and being accepting of our situation.
“Whilst school nurses clearly have a significant role in supporting pupils in schools with medical conditions, this is a small part of their role. Referencing this makes an absolute mockery of all the advancements made by the school nursing profession through the school nurse development programme, so capably and efficiently led by the PHE Chief Nurse Directorate, Wendy Nicholson. To make things worse, the response letter is also inaccurate on a number of facts so, in conclusion, is an absolute disgrace and unacceptable.
“I am very disappointed if this is the best response our PM can deliver to our dedicated team of specialist nurses!”
Read the letter here.
If you believe the cuts are causing harm to your service and community, please email the Prime Minister here or write to your MP c/o The House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA.