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Rise in Down's Syndrome births highlights importance of learning disabilities nurses

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The role of learning disabilities nurses will become even more significant as more children are born with Down’s Syndrome, latest figures suggest.

Analysis of the National Down’s Syndrome Cytogenetic Register for England and Wales shows that 749 babies were born with the condition in 2006, up 4% from 717 in 1989 when screening was first widely introduced.

Media coverage has linked the findings with an increased acceptance of the condition among by society. But other trends, such as the increasing proportion of women having children later in life when risks of Down’s are increased, were a more likely reason for the increase, according to the report by Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London.

Either way, the growing number of people with the disability is having an impact on nursing workload said Annie Norman, learning disability adviser for the RCN. ‘People with Down’s Syndrome are living longer and their healthcare is complicated by their Down’s,’ she said.

The NMC’s two-phase review of pre-registration nursing education is currently considering the future of learning disability nursing as a specialist branch of training. ‘We absolutely need learning disabilities nurses now and in the future,’ said Ms Norman. ‘The big debate in nursing is will there be that group in the future.’

She also cited the Independent Inquiry into Access to Healthcare for People with Learning Disabilities, published in July, which found people with learning disabilities found it harder to access healthcare than the general population.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am a learning disability nurse and have working with this group of people for the last 15 years and feel that there is a definate need for highly specialised nurses. For the past 6 years I have been in a low secure hospital for adults with Learning disabilities, challenging behaviours and mental health issues. the majority of trained nurses are RMNs as the RNLDs are few - the RMNs don't have a clue how to approach these people, speak to them or nurse them. This is a very sad situation as the people we look after deserve a fair deal and a good qualitiy of life - how can this happen when the people who are looking after you cannot even communicate with you!
    Keep Learning disability nurses going there will always be a need for them.

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