England’s chief nursing officer says increasing LD nursing numbers is priority

Ruth May also hinted at a possible return of the bursary to support nursing students

England's chief nursing officer Ruth May told a conference this week that increasing the number of learning disability nurses was a priority and hinted at the reintroduction of the bursary

CNO for England Ruth May speaking at the Learning Disability Nursing conference in Manchester
Ruth May speaking at the Learning Disability Nursing Conference in Manchester. Picture: John Houlihan

Increasing the learning disability workforce of the future is a top priority for England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May.

She also hinted at a possible return for the bursary to support nursing students when she addressed the fifth annual RCNi Learning Disability Nursing Conference – supported by Learning Disability Practice – in Manchester.

Watch: Ruth May reveals her three priorities for nursing

Dr May referred to a ‘massive decline in the number of learning disability nurses starting to train’, with numbers falling from 500 in 2011, to 300 in 2018.

‘We have seen a big reduction in the number of people coming into mostly learning disability and mental health nursing. Most of these are from more mature backgrounds. We are giving serious consideration to how we review this and I am working hard on it,’ she told delegates in response to questions from nurses about the reduction in universities offering learning disability nursing courses.

Workforce, celebrating nursing and #teamCNO

Dr May, who is touring universities across England until Christmas, explained that she is working with the Council of Deans to come up with a solution to the recruitment crisis that has hit learning disability nursing especially hard.

She also outlined her three top priorities for the coming year: workforce, celebrating the work of nurses and #teamCNO, which she described as encouraging the profession to speak with one voice.

Allied to this, she explained, is a move to increase the number of clinical placements and the recent announcement of £1,000 for every nurse to receive £1,000 for continuing professional development, although the latter is available only to staff working in the NHS.

‘This is the biggest investment I can remember,’ she said, adding that if nurses do not receive the money, they should contact her.

Referring to learning disability being mentioned in the NHS Long Term Plan she said: ‘We have an opportunity now to make some big changes.’

She urged nurses: ‘Have massive pride in your profession. I will continue to work to prioritise workforce and celebrate what we are good at.’

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