A third of nurses believe that people with a learning disability receive a poorer standard of healthcare than the rest of the population, according to a survey by charity Mencap.
The survey results were announced on Monday to coincide with the launch of its “Getting it right” campaign, which calls on trusts to sign up to a nine point charter on improving standards of practice when dealing with people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
It follows a warning last week by the Royal College of Nursing that gaps in nurses’ knowledge often contributes to the deaths of patients with learning disabilities while in healthcare settings (news, page 2, 15 June).
The warning itself followed Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust being fined £50,000 after the death of Kyle Flack, who was asphyxiated when his head became trapped between his hospital bed and the bedrail.
The Mencap survey, which involved 417 hospital nurses and 223 primary care nurses, revealed that a third of respondents said they had personally witnessed a patient with a learning disability being treated with neglect or a lack of dignity or receiving poor quality care.
The results also revealed that 33 per cent of primary care nurses and 30 per cent of hospital nurses said they had not been trained in how to make reasonable adjustments for patients with a learning disability.
Additionally, 74 per cent of primary care nurses and 65 per cent of hospital nurses said they needed specific guidelines on how care and treatment should be adjusted to meet the needs of those with a learning disability.
Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said: “The fact that so many healthcare professionals recognise the gaps in their own training and the need for specific guidelines for treating people with a learning disability, shows the need for urgent action before more people suffer.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the college fully supported the launch of the campaign.
He said: “It is deeply concerning to hear that nurses are witnessing one of the most vulnerable groups of people being let down by the health service.
“Learning disability nurses have the specialist knowledge and training to provide the best possible care for these patients. Worryingly, despite an increase in the number of people with learning disabilities, there are now a third fewer learning disabilities nurses than in 1996.”