The Department of Health (DH) School Nurse Development Programme (SNDP) submitted its first report to the Minister, Anne Milton, at the beginning of February 2012.

Called “Getting It Right for children, young people and families: Maximising the contribution of the school nursing team” it aims to build on the Health Visitor Implementation "call to action" (2011), utilising a similar framework and language throughout.

This ongoing plan and call to action aims to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes of all children and young people in the school years, including those with long-term conditions, disabilities and/or mental health problems. It also aims to build capacity in communities, including within the school population themselves, for the prevention of poor health and for the improvement of their health and wellbeing.

Critically it takes into account the views of many stakeholders, building on good practice and the positive experiences young people have reported they have had when accessing school nursing and health services.

Whilst this has, at times, seemingly posed a threat to the morale of school nurses I believe we should view the current high profile children and families currently enjoy within the Government as a great opportunity to shape and inform our future.

As representatives of SAPHNA (The School and Public Health Nurses Association) we continue to work tirelessly to help inform this crucial work by actively participating in a number of Pathway groups alongside the other professional organisations. Collectively we form part of the Partnership delivery group to ensure the governance and oversee future development and subsequent policy implementation.

We see this as building upon the framework set by the strategy for public health in England called Healthy Lives, Healthy People. This document identified the importance of health in the early and developing years as strong foundations for improved health outcomes and improved educational achievement throughout life.

This quote, taken directly from the document, recognises the essential contribution the school nursing service plays: Professionals such as health visitors and school nurses will have a role in helping to develop local approaches to public health, provide links between public health and the NHS and leadership in promoting good health and addressing inequalities.

Aims of the SNDP

This important work has recognised the vital contribution school nurses play by clarifying their role and function, ensuring awareness amongst current and future health and education commissioners of the vital role they play. I believe the SNDP will also help to raise the profile of school nursing as a career.

Crucially the views of service users have been instrumental to informing this programme from the outset. Working alongside the National Children’s Bureau, British Youth Council and Netmums, views of children, young people and parents have been captured and used to inform the vision and model.

Consultation Themes

A number of common themes emerged from the consultation period with children, young people and parents.

Visibility was a main theme, with a suggestion that school nurses should be introduced to pupils and parents and provided with a clear outline of all the services school nurses provide, as well as contact details. Ensuring these services were easily accessible at publicised and set times, as well as offering choice, was also seen as important. On a positive note, young people said that when they knew who their school nurse was, their experience had been largely positive which encouraged them to approach them at an earlier stage to seek help for problems.

Next Steps

A suite of professional pathways to support service delivery are also being developed in partnership with key stakeholders and will be announced this spring.

As stated in Healthy Lives, Healthy People school nurses will play a key role in helping to develop local approaches to public health, provide links between public health, the NHS and schools, together with a leadership role in promoting good health and addressing inequalities.

The Public Health Outcomes Framework (spring 2012) will set these out and local commissioners will undertake a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) to determine local priorities.

There are numerous areas within the National operating frameworks (NOFs) where school nursing will have a specific contribution including:
•Healthy child programme five to 19 years
•Using evidence from neuro-science to inform practice in supporting children and young people
•Preparation and transition for school
•School absences
•Population vaccination cover
•Tooth decay in children aged five
•Excess weight in four to five and 10 to 11-year-olds
•Hospital admissions due to intentional or deliberate injuries in under 18-year-olds
•Emotional wellbeing of looked after children
•Hospital admissions due to self harm
•Reduction in under 18 conception rates (and reduction in chlamydia prevalence)
•Smoking prevalence in 15-year-olds
•Reduction in substance misuse
•Building capacity e.g. supporting healthy schools

The programme makes a “Call to action for a partnership approach” and asks “the profession, those who commission school nursing services, and those who provide them to promote a revitalised service....”.

It adds that: Improving support for children, young people and families through the school aged-years requires strong partnership working at all levels; community, locally and nationally and this is a key challenge we face in the near future.

It goes on to outline what specific changes and “tasks” school nursing services will be required to adopt and the framework that they will work to. This will not be without a significant amount of change and challenge. However, for those of us who firmly believe in school nursing and, more importantly in improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people, then this will be a welcome trial!

Whilst we await the feedback from the Minister, the pathway work will continue.

These need to be informed by your views, practice and examples, so please continue to visit this section of the website for opportunities to contribute to the ongoing Programme and for regular updates on the work.

Posted 15/2/12 by sharon.white@saphna-professionals.org