Health services for 4500 Auckland school students are being cut to save money.

A school nurse and a principal say the cuts affecting four secondary schools will leave some pupils with no easy access to healthcare and mark a lost opportunity for encouraging healthy lifestyles.

The Counties Manukau District Health Board is ending its $300,000-a-year funding of school-based health services in decile 3, 4 and 5 secondary schools from July 1.

The Labour-led Government in 2008 announced an expansion of school-based services to all decile 1, 2 and 3 secondary schools - decile 1 schools are in the poorest communities - but the National Government, although continuing the expansion into poorer schools, quit the plan for those rated decile 3.

Counties Manukau DHB had gone further than either government's plans and extended the programme to schools in deciles 4 and 5 without specific funding from the Ministry of Health.

The schools affected by the DHB's cut-back are Alfriston College, Edgewater College, Papatoetoe High School and Tuakau College.

Alfriston principal Susan Impey said yesterday her decile 3 school, which had 1400 students, had received about $100,000 a year from the DHB. It had employed three full- or part-time registered nurses, but this was being wound down to just one nurse, plus a first-aider, who together would be equivalent to 1.5 fulltime staff. She said the DHB funding had enabled the school to offer a holistic health service, with health promotion, a health committee involving students, and confidential consultations for students.

"We're one of the victims of the cut. It really does mean that we will not be able to do anything other than reactive responses."

Having a well-staffed health centre at the school had improved the wellbeing of students, which had improved their learning.

Auckland School Nurse Group president Phillipa Bennetts was saddened by the funding cut too, which she said would reduce access to health services for many young people. Even if they could see a local GP at no charge, they might still have to pay for prescriptions.

She said school-based health promotion on issues like healthy eating influenced not just school students, but also their families.

Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Geraint Martin said the school-based health programmes had achieved some excellent outcomes for the students. "However ... despite increases of funding in health, difficult decisions on priorities still have to be made."

THE SERVICES
* Nurses on site at schools.
* Visiting GPs.
* Health and social assessment of all Year 9 pupils, including height, weight, vision and hearing.
* Advice, treatment or referral for matters including teen pregnancy, contraception, infections, injuries, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction.
* Promotion of healthy eating and exercise.