Funding for Blackpool’s school nurse service is being slashed by £300,000 as part of cuts to the town’s public health budget.
Spending on school nurses is being reduced by a third – to £600,000 a year from £900,000.
At the moment, nurses work in all Blackpool’s primary and secondary schools providing healthcare including running immunisation programmes, monitoring infectious diseases and giving nutritional advice.
The service is contracted out to Blackpool Victoria Hospital which is now consulting with all school nurse staff.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Tory group on Blackpool Council, today branded the cuts “a real threat to the wellbeing of our young children” and called for the controversial school breakfast service to be cut back instead.
A spokeswoman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they were working with the council “to develop a new school nursing service model.”
She added: “To achieve the reduction in budget from Blackpool Council’s Public Health Department, the service will need to change and discussions are ongoing with both Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and schools to commission services which will no longer be provided by school nursing.
“The school nursing service is often the key link between health, education and wider young people’s services which provides guidance and support on a range of health-related issues and focuses on early intervention, prevention and health promotion.
“The budget reduction will result in a more limited provision to both primary and secondary schools, but the service will continue to focus on the emotional health and wellbeing of young people and encouraging healthy weight.”
Specialist community public health nurses and school nurse assistant roles will be retained, but registered nurses will no longer work in schools.
Coun Amy Cross, cabinet member for reducing health inequalities, said: “It is no secret that our public health budget has been drastically cut over the last few years. Unfortunately this means that we have had to review our existing contracts, one of which being the school nursing service.
“The budget for this service will be reduced by approximately a third which will undoubtedly impact on the services currently provided in schools.
“We have written to schools to let them know what elements of the school nursing service that we are able to continue to fund, and that there will also be the option for schools to buy in additional services directly from the school nursing service, if they so wish. Schools which are now academies have their own budgets specifically to provide services to their students and we would encourage them to do so.
“It’s really important that despite difficult budget cuts to the service, we ensure that the new service is focused on meeting the public health needs of children and young people in the town, improving their health and wellbeing and contributing to better educational outcomes.”
Coun Williams said: “This news is most concerning and a real threat to the wellbeing of our young children.
“It would seem this council is prepared to blame all its job-cutting decisions on the Government, and while the savings are a real challenge it’s up to individual councils to work smarter and manage their own budgets more effectively.
“The free breakfast scheme needs a complete review as to whether or not it has made any difference.
“I would have thought lots of parents would prefer a school nursing service rather than an on-the-whole unnecessary free breakfast in areas where it’s just not needed.”
A 30-day consultation period has begun with all school nurse staff.