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Nurse networks in learning disability

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VOL: 96, ISSUE: 41, PAGE NO: 40

Michael Brown, MSc, RGN, RNLD, is clinical development nurse, Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust, Scotland

Gordon Moore, RNMH, CNLD, is senior clinical nurse, Down Lisburn HSS, Northern Ireland

In 1997, three senior community nurses from Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust, Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust and Ayrshire and Arran Primary Care NHS Trust established the Scottish Community Learning Disability Nursing Network. The aim was to encourage the development of clinical nursing practice and improve communication between all community learning disability nursing teams across Scotland. The main goals were to:

In 1997, three senior community nurses from Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust, Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust and Ayrshire and Arran Primary Care NHS Trust established the Scottish Community Learning Disability Nursing Network. The aim was to encourage the development of clinical nursing practice and improve communication between all community learning disability nursing teams across Scotland. The main goals were to:

- Promote awareness about the role of the community learning disability nurse;

- Create a network across Scotland to enable community nurses to share best practice;

- Hold an annual network conference;

- Develop a database of community learning disability nurses and their locations across Scotland so that colleagues can share information.

The network has met approximately every three to four months at different sites across Scotland. Initially, community nurses made use of their own networks and links with health trusts to promote and bring on board colleagues. One of the key features of the network is to enable any interested community learning disability nurse to participate and meet colleagues doing a similar job. Representatives from all primary care health trusts gradually began to attend and today all community learning disability teams across Scotland have joined the network.

Meetings are informal, with an agenda and minutes circulated to all network teams.

Focus of the network meetings
Meetings have covered areas and examples of innovative and creative clinical practice within the field of community learning disability nursing, including working with offenders, epilepsy and acute hospital care. As a result of the review of services for people with a learning disability undertaken by the Scottish Executive, the network held a workshop and formulated their own response from a community nursing perspective. The outcome of the review has recently been published and is now available for consultation and comments. The network should be in a position to provide a collective response from the group.

First Scottish network conference
Community learning disability nurses are often at the forefront and cutting edge of health service delivery for their client group as well as developing innovative and creative practice. Often this is unrecognised or ignored. To promote innovations in practice across Scotland a network conference was suggested.

The morning was given over to looking at learning disability services across Scotland. Subjects included the hospital closure programme, a review of services currently undertaken by the Scottish Executive and changes in nurse education.

The focus of the afternoon was on clinical nursing practice with presentations from Northern Ireland on 'Health Check 2000' in a health surveillance project, the care of a patient with a learning disability attending the acute hospital, and developing positive parenting skills in parents with a learning disability. The day was well received and it was agreed to repeat the event the following year.

Formalising the network
So that the business of the network could progress, it was agreed that it should be formally constituted and a small committee elected. A draft constitution has been developed and will be shared with network members for comments and adoption at the first annual general meeting.

Nursing in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland professional development forum for community learning disability nursing (CLDN) has been developing informally for three years. The group has representatives from two of the four health and social services boards in Northern Ireland. It has broken barriers created by the internal market by sharing good practice and innovation across health and social services trusts to develop areas such as:

- Reviewing and redesigning individual client case files;

- Constructing assessment tools for various areas of client need;

- Formulating professional nursing standards;

- Sharing training packs used by each CLDN service;

- Developing a CLDN service satisfaction questionnaire.

An overriding objective of organising a regional conference was successfully achieved in November 1999 with 130 people attending a multiprofessional conference with a variety of presentations.

The group aims to provide a network for community learning disability nursing services throughout the province, to share knowledge, expertise and innovation that will influence and enhance research-based best practice for people with a learning disability.

The group plans to:

- Review current strategy, reports, consultation documents and developments relating to learning disability;

- Develop communication links with key people at trust, board and departmental levels;

- Establish links with all trusts in Northern Ireland to promote regional coverage;

- Ensure communication and networking continues to develop with educational providers;

- Formalise the professional development forum by appointing a chair, secretary, treasurer and establishing a list of members;

- Develop all Ireland and United Kingdom links;

- Review the role and function of community learning disability nurses and extended roles incorporating the key themes of service.

Scottish and Northern Irish exchanges
The similarities between the Scottish and Irish networks resulted in exchange visits. Nurses from Northern Ireland visited Scotland for three days, seeing services in transition in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Areas of future collaboration were discussed along with the possibility of linking in with networks across Scotland.

Two visits have been organised for three community learning disability nurses from Scotland to visit Northern Ireland to discuss:

- Closure of long-stay hospitals and resettlement strategy;

- Community statutory/private/voluntary residential provision;

- Community nursing learning disability developments and innovations;

- CLDN service structures;

- Relationship between practice and education;

- Care management.

Towards a national network
We hope that links between learning disability nurses in Scotland and Northern Ireland will lead to the following:

- Sharing good practice;

- Comparative evaluations of service;

- Future workshop and conference events;

- Joint working initiatives;

- Service development visits.

Networks of community learning disability nurses have been established in other areas of the UK and links have already been made with some. These links could perhaps lead to a national network and help to provide a focus and voice for community learning disability nursing.

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