Nurses who work with people with learning disabilities have “real concerns” about the safety of their clients because of cuts in services, according to a new study.
A poll of 500 nurses revealed that three out of four saw spending cuts to services in their area in the past year.
The Royal College of Nursing said its survey also discovered cuts in the range of services offered, such as health education and personal care packages.
Almost 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability and the figure is set to increase in the coming years, said the RCN, which has also warned of cuts among other areas of nursing, including the prospect of 60,000 job losses across the NHS.
RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “The NHS has a duty to treat everyone as equals and provide the care we all require. However, when it comes to people with learning disabilities, today’s survey clearly shows that this is just not happening.
“With increasing caseloads and complexity of care, alongside decreasing staffing levels, it is hardly surprising that nurses are voicing concerns about the safety and welfare of their patients. Our worry now is that in this tough economic climate, the NHS could end up forgetting people with learning disabilities.”
The survey results were published at the RCN’s annual conference in Harrogate.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “People with learning disabilities should have access to expert learning disabilities nursing and support as they need, want and deserve.
“To deliver this, we need an appropriately skilled workforce to cope with the increasing demand. That is why the four chief nursing officers across the UK commissioned a review into learning disabilities nursing.
“The report ‘Strengthening the Commitment’ published last month aims to ensure that people with learning disabilities of all ages have access to expert Learning Disabilities Nurses and that their families and carers get the best support and care.
“We will now consider how to implement the review’s recommendations and participate in a UK-wide Steering Group to support this.”