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Nurses encourage people with learning disabilities to 'get active'

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Nurses and other healthcare professionals are taking part in different activities and initiatives across the country to mark Learning Disability Awareness Week 2019, which also comes as staff are celebrating 100 years of the specialty.

The UK charity Mencap has set this year’s theme to focus on “sport and inclusion”, in a bid to help tackle damning new statistics that show the fear of being bullied is leading to social isolation for people with a learning disability.

“Sport and physical activity can help by reducing loneliness and isolation”

Brian Murtagh

In a survey of 1,000 adults with a learning disability, more than one in three reported that being bullied was one of the things they worried about most when they went out.

The charity said it believed that it was this fear and worry that meant many people with a learning disability feel reluctant to leave their homes and take part in sport, attend hospital visits or enjoy social activities.

The hope is that by holding different events and activities during this awareness week, people with and without a learning disability will come together through sport.

To mark the occasion, learning disability nurses at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust are embracing this year’s theme by working with North Lincolnshire Council to host an array of sporting activities.

“Learning disability nurses today focus on person-centredness, individualised and holistic care”

Sue Bridges

Charlotte Simpson, a learning disability nurse at the trust, is encouraging people with learning disabilities to take part and “learn new skills, meet new friends and have fun” to help North Lincolnshire celebrate.

Together, the trust will be working with the council and others to put on guided walks, bowling, boccia ball and new age curling for people with learning disabilities.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in Hampshire will be getting involved this week to encourage people with a learning disability to “get active, join in and have fun”.

Nursing staff and other healthcare professionals at the trust have used this year’s theme to organise a walk and picnic on Southampton Common on Tuesday and a fun sports-based event on Friday in Fareham.

Team manager for the East Hampshire learning disability service, Brian Murtagh, said: “Sport and physical activity can help by reducing loneliness and isolation as well as improving health and wellbeing, empowerment and greater social inclusion.

“Sport and physical activity between people with and without a learning disability can also help to improve attitudes towards people with a learning disability – which is very much what we hope to achieve with our fun and welcoming events this week,” he added.

Chief nursing officer

Ruth May

Source: NHS England

Ruth May

Meanwhile, the chief nursing officer for England, Dr Ruth May, took to the social media site Twitter today to mark the beginning of the awareness week.

She said: “Looking forward to learning disability awareness week, and supporting the ongoing celebrations of 100 years of learning disability nursing profession; providing expert support to people and their families to live their best life.”

To coincide with the awareness week and celebrate 100 years of the profession, Health Education England and David Harling, head of learning disability at NHS England and NHS improvement, are set to host a celebration at the House of Commons on Friday.

Learning disabilities and autism nurse consultant, Sue Bridges, from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, has been invited to attend the centenary reception event.

Ms Bridges said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be invited to the House of Commons on 21 June, which will be the focal point of the centenary celebrations of learning disability nursing and falls in learning disability week.

“I will be representing all the 111 learning disability nurses at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust who undertake a variety of different roles,” she said.

She added: “Learning disability nurses today focus on person-centredness, individualised and holistic care, acting as advocates for those who do not get heard.

“Now that we know so much more about the health inequalities of people with learning disabilities, learning disability nurses have never been more needed,” she said.

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