The largest union in the country has called for the immediate employment of 2,000 more qualified school nurses in England to monitor and give advice on the overall health of children on issues such as teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and drug misuse.
Unite says that weighing and measuring children when they enter and leave primary school is a waste of public money, as it is not tackling the obesity epidemic in England.
Instead, it is calling on the government to ensure that all 152 PCTs in England commit money to each train 10 new school nurses from September 2009. This would nearly double the current workforce.
Unite National Officer for Health, Karen Reay, is seeking a meeting with Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, in the new year, when she will raise the issue.
Unite’s stand comes in the wake of the new National Child Measurement Programme figures, which revealed that a quarter of five year-olds and a third of 11 year-olds are overweight or obese.
Ros Godson, Unite/CPHVA Professional Officer for School-Aged Children, said: “We are appalled at this waste of money, which should be spent on helping families with overweight children but is being frittered away in this expensive measuring exercise.
“The government’s laissez faire attitude is contributing to the build-up of health problems, such as diabetes for future generations.”
She added: “The chasm between government rhetoric and reality on the need to employ more school nurses has reached Grand Canyon proportions.”