Grey area remains over whether school staff or medics should be providing certain types of care at Lancashire's special schools

New guidelines are being developed about the medical support which school staff should be expected to provide
New guidelines are being developed about the medical support which school staff should be expected to provide

Lancashire’s special schools are “close to defining” the type of medical support which staff should be able to administer to their pupils without the need for a specialist clinician, councillors have heard.

A task group set up earlier this year has been trying to categorise the different medical interventions which children attending special schools could require.

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They have now been split into three levels - ranging from those considered “routine” to those classed as being so complex that they must be delivered by medical professionals.

But a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s education scrutiny committee heard that there was still a grey area of so-called “level 2” procedures - which would require specialist training - on which agreement was proving more difficult to secure. Earlier this year, the committee heard concerns that the “goodwill” of school staff was evaporating because some of the things which they were being expected to do.

“We need to ensure that headteachers are comfortable that their staff would be in a position to carry out [these interventions] with the requisite level of training from health staff,” said Ellen Smith, the authority’s policy and commissioning manager.

A draft policy on the subject has been developed after special schools across Lancashire and South Cumbria were surveyed for their opinion. The work was undertaken after inconsistencies were found in the provision of medical support found in different parts of the patch.

“Having now got close to...agreeing with schools the support that is needed, that leads us into a conversation about how we fund it,” said David Carr, County Hall’s head of policy and commissioning.

But the meeting heard that there was also a need to overcome “parental anxiety” about who is looking after their children in school.

“I have personally experienced this as a mother - having to hand over that responsibility to someone,” said Sarah Derbyshire, strategic lead for transforming care at West Lancashire clinical commissioning group.

“We have to acknowledge that just because [school staff] are not nurses, doesn’t mean they are not skilled.”

Consultations are continuing over a final version of the policy, which will have to be based on national guidelines. But one committee member warned that the staff themselves must not be forgotten.

“There are certain procedures which I feel would [require] very understanding and dedicated personnel - anything to do with tubes and the changing over bags is very sensitive,” County Cllr Anne Cheetham said.

CCGs are responsible for commissioning specialist nurses for special schools, while local authorities provide general nursing provision under their public health responsibilities.