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All nurses to have training on learning disabilities and autism

Mandatory training to ensure healthcare staff have a better understanding of learning disabilities and autism has been added to a Bill going through parliament
Baroness Sheila Hollins speaking in the House of Lords

Mandatory training to ensure healthcare staff have a better understanding of learning disabilities and autism has been added to a Bill going through parliament

Mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for nurses and other healthcare staff has taken a step closer to being enshrined in law.

During a debate on the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords last week, crossbench peer Baroness Sheila Hollins tabled an amendment to embed a training scheme in the Bill to ensure healthcare staff have a better understanding of learning disabilities and people’s needs.

Mandatory training to ensure healthcare staff have a better understanding of learning disabilities and autism has been added to a Bill going through parliament

Baroness Sheila Hollins speaking in the House of Lords
Baroness Sheila Hollins speaking in the House of Lords Picture: Parliament TV

Mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for nurses and other healthcare staff has taken a step closer to being enshrined in law.

During a debate on the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords last week, crossbench peer Baroness Sheila Hollins tabled an amendment to embed a training scheme in the Bill to ensure healthcare staff have a better understanding of learning disabilities and people’s needs.

The amendment would see healthcare staff receive ‘appropriate support, training, professional development, supervision and appraisal as is necessary to enable them to carry out the duties they are employed to perform’.

Training programme in memory of teenager who died after being given antipsychotic drugs

Picture of Oliver McGowan
Oliver McGowan

The training programme is named in memory of Bristol teenager Oliver McGowan, who had autism and died after being given antipsychotic drugs that his parents say should not have been prescribed. His parents have campaigned for better staff training since his death in 2016.

In November 2019 the government committed to developing a standardised training package on learning disabilities and autism for health and social care staff.

A trial of the training programme, developed by Health Education England (HEE), was run in 2021, backed by £1.4 million in government funding. An evaluation of the pilot is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

The amendment proposed by Baroness Hollins, emeritus professor of psychiatry at St George’s, University of London, was tabled last Wednesday and if it becomes law it will see that training programme given legal protection.

Government supports pan but wants changes to ensure it is workable

Proposing the amendment, Baroness Hollins said: ‘It puts on statute a policy that the government has committed to undertake… it creates a code of practice which would consult on and set out how training would be scaled up across the country.’

It intends that ‘co-production and co-delivery is embedded from the start’ and would require the government to consult with learning disabilities bodies and those with lived experience to create and regularly revise the code.

The government minister in the debate said it was keen to support the amendment but would be proposing some changes when the Bill returned to the Commons to ensure it was fully workable and fitted into the legal framework.

HEE regional director for the South East Philippa Spicer said the training is co-designed by autistic people, people with a learning disability, family carers and subject experts. She said: ‘I am delighted that this important step has been taken towards health and social care staff in England receiving mandatory training in learning disabilities and autism.

‘The programme aims to give health and social care staff access to training that offers a greater understanding of learning disabilities and autism – to help improve their skills and confidence when delivering care, leading to better outcomes.’

The amendment was passed unanimously. The third reading of the Health and Social Care Bill is due to start in the House of Lords this week before it returns to the House of Commons for the next stage of the legislative process.


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