Supporting schools with pupils with medical conditions

  • New national standards have been introduced for mainstream schools around the health needs of young people, ranging from those taking prescription medicines, to pupils requiring continuous care
  • Zurich Municipal’s public liability policy continues to provide appropriate levels of insurance to cover the recent law change in England
  • School governing bodies must now provide suitable training to staff to help support children with medical conditions

A recent change to the law in England means mainstream schools now have to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions.

In the last few decades, more young people with health needs, including those with long-term conditions and highly complex needs, have been attending mainstream schools.

The new law – which applies to maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units – aims to introduce national safeguards and standards to protect both staff and pupils.

Pupils with medical conditions, ranging from those being helped to take prescription medicines, to children who require continuous and ongoing care and intervention whilst at school – including intimate or invasive care procedures – should all now be properly supported.

This equates to providing full access to education, including school trips and physical education, for those pupils who have underlying medical conditions – of which there are estimated to over one million children in the UK – such as anaphylaxis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and epilepsy.

Mismanagement of these diseases can have serious consequences. In 2007, an 11-year-old boy died after suffering a fatal asthma attack while at school in Stockport. Samuel Linton was forced to sit in a corridor when he had a serious asthma attack. The inquest into his death subsequently returned a verdict of neglect and said the school had ‘caused or significantly contributed’ to his death.

Legal changes

Under the new rules, any member of staff may volunteer or be asked to provide support to pupils with medical conditions, including the administering of medicine, although they cannot be required to do so.

It means that governing bodies must provide suitable training for staff, making them competent before they take on responsibility to support children with medical conditions. There must also be clear policies in place around procedures to be followed for managing medicines.

“Governing bodies should regularly audit their policies relating to supporting pupils with medical conditions, to ensure that healthcare plans are being adhered to, the correct training is being given and the appropriate people are providing the necessary care,” says a spokesperson from Unison, which represents public sector workers.

Breadth of cover

Zurich Municipal customers need not worry in terms of their insurance needs, as their public liability policies will automatically cover these new statutory duties.

“Our public liability policies cover the insured, school governing body, teachers, other employees and volunteers, should a claim be made against them from a pupil who alleges that they have sustained an injury or damage to their property as a result of the negligent provision of medical treatment,” says Stuart Dowsen, Senior Product Underwriter at Zurich Insurance.

“The policy covers the administration or supervision of prescription and non-prescription medication orally, topically, by injection or by tube and the application of appliance or dressings. This applies to both straightforward and complex conditions. We would expect that the teachers, employees and volunteers would have received appropriate training and that this is reviewed on a regular basis.”

Importance of records

The policy covers the administration or supervision of prescription and non-prescription medication orally, topically, by injection or by tube and the application of appliance or dressings

Stuart Dowsen, Senior Product Underwriter at Zurich Insurance

Under the new law, should a claim arise – alleging negligence by a member of staff – civil action is likely to be brought against the employer, who carries public liability, rather than the employee. It is therefore extremely important to record all instances of administering medicine to pupils and of any medical support, as this information can prove vital if needed to defend a claim.

Zurich Municipal’s cover applies up to the full policy limit, and in addition the policy covers costs incurred in defending any claim. The policy excess/deductible, if any, will apply as normal. The policy applies to all school activities, including extra curricula activities and school trips at home and abroad. Cover also applies to any first aid activities carried out by teachers, employees and volunteers.

Many schools have raised concerns over the implementation of their new duties. But from an insurance perspective, the recent law change does bring into sharp focus the importance of schools having the appropriate levels of insurance, as claims relating to a child’s medical condition can prove extremely costly.