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.