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Learning disability nursing needs to reset itself, says senior nurse

NHS England head of learning disability nursing says the profession has to fight to prove its worth

Speaking at the RCNi Learning Disablility Nursing Conference, NHS England head of learning disability nursing said the profession has to fight to prove its worth

NHS England head of learning disability nursing David Harling says the profession needs to reset itself
NHS England and NHS Improvement head of learning disability nursing David Harling speaking
at the RCNi Learning Disability Nursing Conference. Picture: John Houlihan

Learning disability nursing needs to reset itself if it is to tackle the huge challenges ahead, this week's RCNi Learning Disability Nursing Conference in Manchester heard.

Speaking at the event, NHS England and NHS Improvement head of learning disability nursing David Harling said: ‘My challenge to you is that the profession needs to reset itself, and I’m proposing that idea to generate discussion and to agitate.’


Watch: David Harling on the future of learning disability nursing


Mr Harling said that when he qualified almost 30 years ago learning disability (LD) nurses had to fight to prove their worth. He added that it is ironic they are still having to do that today, and too many staff are feeling ‘unworthy.’

'We’re still playing the poor relation to our counterparts in mental health and general nursing,’ he said.

‘They taught my staff to be person-centred’

Several directors of nursing across the country had approached him saying they understood there was a crisis in LD nursing.

‘But they tell me: “I recruit LD nurses in my generic services – ophthalmology, oncology, emergency departments – and I want more of them as they taught my staff person-centredness.”

‘So it seems we need to be the flag bearer for our role.’

Mr Harling welcomed the fact that learning disability nursing was embedded in the NHS Long Term Plan, adding: ‘Along with the plan comes funding, so this is an opportunity we must not miss.’


Find out more

NHS Long Term Plan

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