Legislation and school policies
In 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 made it a legal duty for schools to make arrangements for pupils with medical conditions – this includes children with food allergies. The government published the statutory guidance Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions to explain how to do this.
All pupils with medical conditions – including food allergies – should have an Individual Healthcare Plan agreed between the parents and the school. Where a pupil has been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) for use in an emergency, teachers and other non-healthcare professionals are permitted – but not obligated – to administer an AAI under existing legislation. However, they are only allowed to give the AAI to the person the device has been prescribed to – they cannot use an AAI belonging to child ‘A’ to treat anaphylaxis in child ‘B’.
In 2017, the law was changed: the Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2017 now allows schools to obtain, without a prescription, “spare” AAI devices for use in an emergency, if they so wish. “Spare” AAIs are in addition to any AAI devices a pupil has been prescribed and bring to school. The “spare” AAI(s) can be used if the pupil’s own prescribed AAI(s) are not immediately available (for example, because they are broken, out-of-date, or have misfired). To support schools, the Department of Health together with key stakeholders has developed non-statutory guidance.
To use a “spare” AAI device in a pupil known to be at risk of anaphylaxis, the school must have writtein approval from both the pupil’s healthcare professional and parent/guardian. Unless medical authorisation and parent/guardian consent have been provided, schools cannot administer the AAI to a pupil having anaphylaxis.
The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) has produced a range of Allergy Action Plans, which can be used for this purpose, and can be downloaded here. The BSACI plans can be used as the pupil’s individual healthcare plan to meet the school’s duty under Supporting Pupils, where the pupil has no other healthcare needs. Most Children’s Allergy clinics in the UK now issue the BSACI plans to their patients.
Schools don’t have to use the BSACI plans, but then they need to have an alternative in place which includes information on:
- Known allergens and risk factors for anaphylaxis in the pupil.
- Whether the pupil has been prescribed AAI(s) (and if so what type and dose).
- Where a pupil has been prescribed an AAI: if parental consent has been given for use of the spare AAI.
- A photograph of the pupil to allow a visual check to be made (this will require parental consent).
Schools don’t have to have “spare” AAI(s) – this is a discretionary change enabling schools to do so, if they wish. Unfortunately, “spare” AAI(s) are not provided free of charge – schools must pay for them. This applies even in those devolved nations where no prescription charge is currently levied. Parental bodies may need to consider how best to support their school if the decision is taken to obtain “spare” AAI(s).