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Healthcare care plans for students in schools

It is important that schools liaise with parents to work out a healthcare plan for a child suffering from a medical condition. This care plan should detail who is responsible for providing the pupil with medication.

Guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) sets out the following advice regarding managing medicines whilst a child is on the school premises:

  • Children under the age of 16 should not be administered prescription or non-prescription medicines, unless their parents have provided written consent.
  • Pupils under the age of 16 must not be given any medicine containing aspirin unless it has been prescribed by a doctor.
  • It is the responsibility of the school to set out the conditions in which they can administer non-prescription medicines.
  • A record must be kept by schools of all of the medicine given to individual children.
  • Prescribed medications should only be accepted by schools if they are labelled, in date, supplied in the original container which was dispensed by a pharmacist, and come with instructions on dosage, administration and storage.

Responsibilities of staff

The guidance also states that although members of staff within schools may be asked to support any pupils with medical conditions or to administer medicine, it is not a requirement for them to do so. Administering medication is not considered part of a teacher’s professional duties; however they should consider the needs of those pupils that they teach with medical conditions. The government guidance also suggests that before members of staff take on the responsibility of providing support to any pupils with medical conditions, they should be given suitable training.

Responsibilities of parents

It is the responsibility of parents to provide a school with updated information on their child’s medical needs. It is also important that parents complete any actions which have been agreed as part of a child’s individual healthcare plan, such as providing equipment or medicines to the school.

Responsibilities of pupils

The guidance suggests that capable children should be encouraged to manage their own medicines. Where possible, they should be permitted to carry their medicines and medical devices, or at least be able to access these easily and quickly for self-medication. If the child refuses to take their medicine, or carry out a required procedure, they shouldn’t be forced to do so; however staff should ensure that they follow the plan of action agreed in the pupil’s individual healthcare plan. The school should also inform the child’s parents of the situation so that they can consider other options.

Storing medicines

It is important that medicines are stored safely, and that a pupil is aware of where their medicine is kept at all times, so that they can access it immediately when required. The child should also know who the staff member is with access to the storage facility, if applicable. Any devices and medicines such as adrenaline pens, blood glucose testing metres or asthma inhalers should not be locked away so that they are readily available to pupils if needed.

School trips

Advice from education experts suggests that although a school may supply non-prescription medications if they are needed for a trip as part of a first-aid kit, they must ensure that:

  • The medicines are purchased from a reliable source.
  • The school has received written consent from parents to administer these medicines.
  • Medicines have been for allergens.
  • They have purchased these medicines using appropriate funding.

A school may also decide to ask parents to provide non-prescription medication for their child, giving them advance warning as to when the trip is taking place. If this is the case, medication supplied by parents should be in its original container, with clear labelled instructions on how and when the medication should be taken. Prior to the trip parents should also fill in a written consent form, allowing their child to take this medicine. These consent forms should be returned to the school, along with the medication, in advance of the trip, to allow time for any training for staff in how to dispense the medicine. If a child requires this medicine, it is important that the school confirms that a child has taken it in the past and did not suffer from any adverse reactions.

Whilst on a school trip, all medicine should be kept away from children, in a room which is occupied by staff members, and ideally in a locked container. One member of staff should be in charge of managing medicines, and this individual should know which pupils these medicines belong to. If this member of staff is unavailable, a second individual should take on the responsibility of managing medicines. In addition, any pupils taking medication should be informed as to which staff members are responsible.

Unacceptable practice

It is the responsibility of governing bodies to ensure that a school’s policy on administering medication is clear in what is considered unacceptable practice. Guidance explains that it is generally unacceptable for a school to prevent a child from accessing their medication or inhalers, and from administering this medication where necessary. In addition, schools should generally not require a child’s parents to come to the school to administer any medication, or to provide medical support to a child. The school should not make parents feel as though they are obligated to do so.

Medication in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Revised statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which came into effect on 3rd April 2017, states the following regarding administering medicines to children under the age of five:

  • Prescription medicines should only be administered to a child if they have been prescribed by a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or dentist.
  • A child should only be given medicine containing aspirin if it has been prescribed by a doctor.
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines should only be administered to a pupil if written permission has been obtained for that particular medicine from the child’s parents or carer.
  • Schools should record in writing each time a child is given medicine, and the pupil’s parents must be informed.

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