In late 2022 I was contacted by constituents with children at Bleasdale School, a special school for pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. They were worried about the gradual withdrawal of NHS nurses from the school over several years, which has now left the school with no nurses at all, and school staff having to attend to almost all the pupils’ medical needs.

While we all know how caring and hard-working school staff are, there are better uses for their time during the school day than providing medical treatment, and that treatment is often better provided by skilled nurses. Caring for the pupil’s complex medical needs has stretched the school to breaking point, leading to understandable concerns about the development, learning and health of the pupils.

I queried this with the NHS in December 2022 – I wanted to know why nurses were being taken from our schools, and what could be done to get them back.

They were not able to get back to me with the answers I wanted, which was frustrating, but this began a long series of discussions held within the NHS and with Lancashire County Council about this issue and how it will be handled going forwards, and I am now happy to say that they have finally devised a policy for ‘Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions in Special Schools’!

This policy finally makes clear the responsibilities that each actor – school, parents, council, NHS – has in providing care for pupils with medical conditions, and which interventions should be provided by school staff and which by NHS staff going forwards. I do not agree with all of its conclusions – fundamentally I believe that trained nurses are the best people to provide most healthcare for children, and I would like to see permanent nurses returning to schools – but I am glad that schools and parents now have clarity to guide the care being provided, and the policy is intended to ensure that nurses are available on a consistent, reliable basis.

Ultimately this is yet another consequence of a decade of cuts to the NHS. The gradual erosion of school nurses across the country has played a notable part in the decline in children’s health outcomes, a decline that Labour are determined to reverse if elected to government. However until the next election, I am keen to get the best possible care for our children, and this policy seems to mark a step in the right direction.

With regard to Bleasdale School, I am told that the NHS and the school have renegotiated their contract in line with the new policy, and that “UHMB who are the Provider will work with the school and families to make sure that this is in place and effective, this will be taking place between January and the end of March 2024.” I will be very keen to see how the new plans turn out, and to hear the opinions of parents and school staff.

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