Young people could soon be texting their school nurses for appointments in a new drive to improve health in schools, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced today [12 Mar].
It is part of a new plan designed to improve care for young people by giving school nurses a greater role in pupils’ lives. School nurses have a crucial role to play in looking after the health of children and young people. They can promote health in schools, teaching pupils about obesity, the harms caused by drugs and alcohol and reduce the rates of teenage pregnancy by giving support and advice.
But too often pupils find it hard to see school nurses because they don’t know how to make appointments or they are too embarrassed or shy to ask for an appointment through a teacher. Using technology such as emails and text messaging to contact their school nurse can overcome these problems.
Three hundred young people have offered to help shape the way school nurses care for young people. These ‘school nurse champions’ will work with the Department of Health to come up with new ideas to help pupils get more access to their school nurses and the health advice they provide.
Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health said: "We want young people to be able to speak to their school nurses more often so they get sound health advice. Pupils have told us they want to be able to make appointments by text rather than going through the teacher, so that’s something we’re going to put into action.
"School nurses are hugely important they can give young people advice on all aspects of health care. We’re going to work with school pupils to look at more innovative ways to get advice and support from school nurses. Ministers wanted the views of young people when developing the plans and hundreds contributed ideas through the British Youth Council. Young people identified the school nurse as a friendly, trusting person and recognised that there is a great opportunity for nurses to become a familiar face as soon as they enter school.
Other ideas suggested by young people included having the choice of seeing a male or female nurse and ensuring that school nurses attend assemblies and classrooms to make themselves known to all pupils."
A study by the National Children’s Bureau showed that the majority of young people wanted their school nurse to help them eat more healthily and help them with the changes they go through as they grow up.
Children and Families Minister Sarah Teather said: "Good schools understand the connection between pupils’ physical and mental health, their safety, and their educational achievement. School nurses play a valuable role in this, providing trustworthy advice and support to children, young people and parents. This new way of working has been developed and informed by the views of children, young people, parents and professionals, so that we can be confident that it is fit for purpose."
Liam Preston, Chair of the British Youth Council said: "As a youth-led charity, the British Youth Council (BYC) know that health services for young people work best when they are shaped by young people.
"Young people have told the Department of Health in their own words, that school nurses need to be visible, accessible and confidential, and that young people should be able to feedback on the service they receive. At the moment, too many young people are missing out on getting help from their school nurse. Young people’s voices need to continue to be heard following the launch of the school nursing strategy to ensure school nursing teams can use their skills and experience to make the maximum impact on improving youth health