The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust has launched a review of community staff caseloads, after a local school nurse made a public complaint to health secretary Patricia Hewitt.
Sue Greenwood, who works for the trust, told Hewitt at the Amicus/Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association annual conference earlier this month that she looked after 9,000 school-age children across 28 schools and one further education college.
Greenwood said her caseload included 25 children on the child protection register at any one time, and 25 children in care.
“Recognising the high caseloads of community staff, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust has recently begun a review of staff caseloads,” a statement put out by the trust explained. “In addition to the caseload review, staff are also being encouraged to look at new ways of working, particularly with partner organisations including Cornwall Council’s education department.”
Amicus head of health Kevin Coyne described Greenwood’s workload as “disgraceful”, and has demanded “urgent talks” with the PCT. The union has repeatedly called for one full-time school nurse to be employed for every one of the UK’s 3,400 secondary schools and their cluster primaries, in line with government policy. However, the latest figures available reveal there were just 2,409 nurses employed in schools at the end of September 2004, of whom only 856 were qualified nurses.
Highlighting the importance the government has placed on tackling issues such as teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, and obesity, Coyne warned: “If this nurse’s workload is mirrored across the school nurses in Cornwall, we are looking at a potential crisis situation, where the public health remit of school nurses is not being fulfilled.”