Nurses and other healthcare staff are set to be given new training on how to better support people with learning disabilities in a bid to prevent more lives being “tragically cut short”, under latest government proposals.
The government said today that it would consult widely on a set of proposals with professionals, patients, care providers and the public before putting them in place, in order to avoid any future training becoming a “box-ticking exercise”.
“We must do more, and must do better to address the significant health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities”
The teaching is expected to cover relevant legislation, such as the Mental Capacity Act, the need to adjust the way care is provided, and how to help people with learning disabilities “reach their full potential”, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
It is one of a raft of new measures being introduced to address health inequalities for people with learning disabilities in response to recommendations made in the second annual report from the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme.
The report noted that people with learning disabilities die, on average, 15 to 20 years sooner than the general population, usually from conditions that could be prevented or treated by good quality care.
Key recommendations from the review include the need for:
- Better collaboration and communication between care providers
- Ensuring reasonable adjustments are made for patients and their families
- Mandatory learning disability awareness training for all staff supporting these patients
- Better understanding and application of the Mental Capacity Act
- Patients with two or more long-term conditions having a local, named care co-ordinator
“If the NHS really wants to stop the scandal of preventable deaths, all nurses and doctors must get higher levels training”
The department and NHS England have committed to addressing all the report’s recommendations.
Government minister for care, Caroline Dinenage, said: “Every person with a learning disability must receive the same high quality care you and I would expect.
“For too long many people with learning disabilities have had their lives tragically cut short, in part because of a lack of understanding about their needs,” she said. “This must end.
“We will consult on expanding learning disability awareness training so that health and care staff are better equipped to provide compassionate and informed care. Support will be improved to help enhance the lives of people with learning disabilities across the country – anything less is unacceptable,” she said.
The LeDeR programme is delivered by the University of Bristol and is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership on behalf of NHS England.
The first-of-its-kind project was established in 2015 and the second annual report was published in May 2018 with the list of recommendations.
“For too long many people with learning disabilities have had their lives tragically cut short”
Experts behind the project review every death of a person with a learning disability in England to find out where lessons could be learned and services improved. From July 2016 to November 2017, 1,311 deaths were notified to the LeDeR programme.
Of 103 people whose deaths were reviewed, the health of 13 was found to have been adversely affected by one or more of the following factors – delays in care or treatment, gaps in service provision, organisational dysfunction, and neglect or abuse.
The LeDeR programme’s lead in Bristol, Professor Pauline Heslop, said the service improvements identified must be embedded with “intensity and pace”.
She added: “We, as a society, nationally and locally, must do more, and must do better to address the significant health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities and their families.
professor pauline heslop
“It is the responsibility of all of us to make things better for people with learning disabilities, at individual, organisational and wider levels,” she said. ”Each of us can make a difference and must do so.”
As part of the drive to improve care, the Department of Health and Social Care has also committed to several additional actions to better support people in the community.
These include sharing learning from a successful pilot in which people with learning disabilities, mental health conditions and autism were assigned a named social worker to coordinate their care.
The department will also undertake a long-term study of the impact of integrated community support for people with learning disabilities, and will test and develop a new quality of life standard for this group to measure the effectiveness of the support they receive.
Ray James, national director for learning disabilities at NHS England, said it was working closely with the government and other services to address the recommendations of the LeDeR report and ensure they were “translated into action”.
Jan Tregelles chief executive of Mencap
Responding to the government announcement, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of learning disabilities charity Mencap, said: “These are very welcome, first steps for all NHS staff to get basic training on how to provide high quality care for people with a learning disability.
“But if the NHS really wants to stop the scandal of the 1,200 preventable deaths of people with a learning disability every year, all nurses and doctors must get higher levels training,” said Ms Tregelles.
“This mandatory training must be in partnership with people with a learning disability and their families, and teach all nurses and doctors how to make reasonable adjustments and understand key laws like the Mental Capacity Act,” she said.
She added: “We say to government – please don’t miss this huge opportunity.”