Trials to change school nurse role in Scotland prompt resignations

Plans to revamp the role of Scotland’s school nurses have come under question after a pilot in two council areas resulted in resignations. 

Trials began in September 2015 in Perth and Kinross and Dumfries and Galloway.

Since then, seven school nurses have handed in their notice or retired after objecting to their new role.

The details emerged in a Scottish Government report A Realist Evaluation of the Refocused School Nurse Programme within Early Adopter Sites in Scotland.

The Scottish Government wants to change the traditional way that school nurses operate. 

The report said: ‘The method of working proposed by the refocused role was very different from much of the work undertaken by school nurses prior to the early adoption and not all staff would necessarily wish to work in this manner.’

It went on to say: ‘It was particularly stressful for staff in Perth and Kinross as they endeavoured to cover the immunisation schedule as well as working according to the refocused school nursing role.’

In Perth and Kinross, four of the original staff resigned or retired as a result of the new role, while in Dumfries and Galloway three newly hired staff all left before they could be properly trained. 

Under the Scottish Government proposals, nurses will take on new responsibilities that were previously undertaken by social workers and mental health specialists rather than a focus on treating sick pupils and doing vaccinations. 

School nurses will be asked to focus on nine priority areas including children’s mental health and wellbeing, substance misuse, domestic abuse and the potential for them becoming homeless. 

The report identified problems with the new system, and said that many nurses did not feel equipped to deal with the number of children coming forward with mental health issues. 

Concerns were also raised about nurses becoming less visible in schools as they carry out other tasks, while training staff in the priority areas was described as ‘very time-consuming and stressful’ for managers.