• Led by the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.
  • Focused on mental health problems in children and young people, who often don’t seek help from GPs or primary care.
  • Identified school nurses as the key to improving identification of children affected.
  • Results showed the project had a positive effect on nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and skills, and their confidence working with depressed pupils significantly improved.

The project trained school nurses to be better at recognising and assessing mental health problems, to know when to refer people for help and to manage children’s mental health themselves.

School nurses had been recognised as playing a pivotal role in spotting the estimated 10-20% of children and young people with mental health problems, yet they are historically under-trained in this area.

The project involved:

  • collating existing training material and developing new tools, including video-based learning to help school nurses in their work with depressed adolescents.
  • developing extra resources, including peer support networks for school nurses as a professional group, so they can meet to learn and discuss issues.

The training package was piloted in NHS Sutton and Merton, and was modified before being offered to all available school nurses of 13 PCTs in London, covering 169 secondary schools and achieving a high level of involvement from stakeholders.


  • By helping spot mental health problems earlier, the young people affected can benefit from improvements to their quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
  • Results showed the project had a positive effect on nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and skills, and their confidence working with depressed pupils significantly improved.
  • Nurses also showed improvements in recognising and differentiating depression from more general life problems.

Who was involved?

The team’s approach was multi-disciplinary. Project lead Professor Andre Tylee from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, has a GP background. There were two school nurses, a child psychiatrist, a young patient and a carer on the project team. The study coordinator, Mr Mark Haddad, a nurse researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, worked with a project lead from Rethink.

Partners included: Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, Rethink, Royal College of Nursing, Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust.

Further reading

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Involving primary care clinicians in quality improvement

April 2012
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