Learning Disability Practice conference 2018 tackles the issues facing nurses now and in the future

Innovation, changes in nursing practice and the needs of an ageing population were topics for discussion

Innovation, changes in nursing practice and the needs of an ageing population were topics for discussion

A conference delegate during a workshop discussion. Picture: Neil O'Connor

A 150 nurses gathered in Manchester for the fourth Learning Disability Practice conference.

The sell-out event, titled Learning disability nursing for now and the future, featured speakers focusing on evidence about the health of people with learning disabilities. The issues were then explored, with workshops on how assistive technology can be used to improve people's lives, the work of hospital liaison nurses, and how to identify and plan a campaign such as Mencap's #treatmewell.

Ged Jennings takes a workshop. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Simon Jones and Kim Ashwin facilitate workshop discussion. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Serena Jones presents to a workshop group. Picture: Neil O'Connor

A formulation for learning disability nursing was offered by independent consultant Debra Moore, who emphasised how learning disability nursing has changed over the years, and the varied work that differing roles in the field can offer, from direct patient care to commissioning, management and research.

Conference speaker Debra Moore, an independent consultant. Picture: Neil O'Connor

She said: 'We are a dwindling number of learning disability nurses and we are not going to magic more numbers of nurses even if something happens today. I do not recognise the nurse I was 35 years ago. We worked to the standards of the day. We did our best then with what we knew then but we will do better and move forward.'

She asked delegates to think about their role and ask themselves these questions: 'Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for? What do clients want or need? What do they clients get out of it?'

Life expectancy lower than previously thought

Training and quality assessment coordinator at the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Bristol Lindsey Allen outlined the findings of the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme, the report of which was published in May. It found people with learning disabilities die earlier than previously thought – at 59 years for men and 56 for women. It also found 28% of deaths were of people aged under 50, compared with 5% in the general population of England and Wales aged four years and over who died in 2016.

Lindsey Allen of the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Bristol. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Ms Allen outlined the main causes of death as pneumonia, sepsis and aspiration pneumonia, and the most common underlying causes of death being respiratory and circulatory diseases and cancer. Among the recommendations are:

  • To improve the uptake of flu vaccination in people with learning disabilities.
  • People have a named care co-ordinator.
  • Health professionals be more aware of the signs of sepsis.

She added: 'By the time people present in acute situations it can be too late.'

Need for learning disability nurses will increase

Professor of nursing at Queen's University Belfast and consultant editor of Learning Disability Practice Michael Brown told the audience evidence of an ageing population of people with learning disabilities indicates a need for more learning disability nurses in the future.

 Queens University Belfast nursing professor Michael Brown. Picture: Neil O'Connor

'There is clear international research evidence regarding health needs and health inequalities and a different health pattern from the general population which can be a guide to inform learning disability nursing practice,' he said.

'There is an increasing and ageing population of children, adults and older people with learning disabilities living on in older age, more with complex and inter-related physical, mental health and behaviour needs – a key role for learning disability nurses.'

For more reports from the conference see







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