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Top academics call for summit on staffing crisis in learning disability nursing

Top academics in the field of learning disability nursing are calling for a high-level meeting to discuss staffing in the speciality, which faces a recruitment and retention crisis

Top academics in the field of learning disability nursing are calling for a high-level meeting to discuss staffing in the speciality, which faces a recruitment and retention crisis


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Top academics in the field of learning disability nursing are calling for a high-level meeting to discuss staffing in the speciality, which faces a recruitment and retention crisis.

The Learning and Intellectual Disability Nursing Academic Network (LIDNAN) made the call at the Positive Choices and Positive Commitment conference in Dublin.

It is considering calling for an urgent meeting with organisations such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Council of Deans of Health, unions and NHS organisations to avert what many see as a crisis as learning disability nursing numbers appear to have declined faster than in other fields of practice.

Decline in enrolment

The numbers of students enrolling at universities to become learning disability nurses has declined, with some universities cancelling programmes because the small numbers mean they are no longer cost effective. A report by the Council of Deans found some universities in England have scrapped their 2018 intake.

The latest to feel the squeeze is the University of Hertfordshire, which has just announced that it is reducing three learning disability programmes to one.

The number of learning disability nurses in practice is also declining. Figures show that between 2013 and 2017 they fell by 18.4% in England, 17% in Wales and 5.3% in Northern Ireland.

Marketing campaign

Health Education England is now planning a marketing campaign aimed at potential students going through the Universities and College Admissions Service system and beyond to encourage more people to go into nursing.

A number of regional events are being held to gather information on the issue.

Associate director of specialist education and quality at Leeds University Jo Lay told the LIDNAN meeting: ‘I feel we are witnessing learning disability nursing going out of the back door.

Lack of clear direction

‘While it is fantastic that there is a marketing strategy, it does not give a clear direction. There is nothing to convince universities that learning disability nursing has a future. It is not enough. There needs to be some commitment from the organisations who contribute to this to say we have a future that will meet the needs of people with learning disabilities.’

Associate professor of learning disability at Kingston University Trish Griffith said: ‘The marketing campaign will hopefully pick up some clearing places, but the real impact will be felt next year.

‘The campaign is aimed partly at clearing but it is also looking at getting to schools, careers advisers and access to nursing courses. It needs to be a long-term project.’

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