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Chance to improve learning disability care must be taken

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A government-commissioned report has called for all nurses to be trained in caring for patients with learning disabilities.

The report detailed the findings of an inquiry chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, the former chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It was damning in its conclusions, stating that the care provided to people with learning disabilities was often very poor in the NHS.

The report noted that training and education on the subject to undergraduate and postgraduate staff was ‘very limited’.

This comes less than a year after the Healthcare Commission published its first audit of inpatient services for people with learning disabilities, as reported by NT in December. This also highlighted poor training as contributing to ‘significant institutional failings’ in the care of these patients.

But, as has also been highlighted by NT, concerns have been raised that nurse training in learning disabilities may get worse in future, not better. None of the five pathways proposed in the modernising nursing careers consultation included learning disabilities. Additionally, the NMC’s consultation on training questioned whether there was still a need for a separate education branch on learning disabilities.

Ironically, these reforms provide the perfect opportunity to address this knowledge shortfall. Those detailing the future
of nursing careers should both ensure that the specialist skills of learning disability nurses are protected and that the subject becomes a standard feature of nurse training.

Support essential for strong basic skills

Gaps in nurse numeracy and literacy skills have been well documented in the popular press and RCN general secretary Peter Carter was concerned enough about basic skills to speak out on the matter last October.

This week NT describes how the profession is responding to this. Nurses must receive support to improve these basic skills, as it is vital to patient safety and confidence in nursing.

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