Mandatory learning disability training for NHS staff long overdue

The passing of an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in England means that training for all NHS health and social care staff is on its way

Paula McGowan has campaigned for the mandatory learning disability training for all NHS health and social care staff to be named after her son Oliver

Compulsory training for all NHS health and social care staff in understanding the needs of people with learning disabilities and autism has moved a step closer to being enshrined in law, which is fantastic news.

Pilots on the training have been conducted and an evaluation is due. A code of practice is to be developed on the content of the training, the levels it is to be delivered at and how it will be implemented.

There is a commitment to ensuring that it is co-produced with autistic and learning disabled people and those with lived experience.

Long overdue developments following failures of care already known

I also understand that the government wants every integrated care board to have a named lead in learning disability and autism.

These are really positive developments and long overdue given the failures of care we know about and that are still coming to light.

The news is also a fitting tribute for the family of Oliver McGowan who have campaigned tirelessly for this training and for it to be named after him. They believe that his death was avoidable and that staff caring for him did not understand his needs or take his and their views into account.

After hearing about the training – which was included in an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords – Oliver’s mother Paula told Learning Disability Practice she was ecstatic, but also shed some tears.

Ensures all healthcare professionals support neurodiverse and learning disabled people

‘It means that staff have to do the training and employers have to allow the space and time for it to happen,’ she said.

‘It is Oliver’s legacy, but it is not just about Oliver. It is for all learning disabled and neurodiverse people. It is also for our health and social care professionals to have the skills to support neurodiverse and learning disabled people. They don’t want to be in situations where they can’t help,’ she said.

I first met Paula McGowan at the Positive Choices conference in 2019 and her story about Oliver’s death is one of the most moving things I have ever heard. If you have not already read or heard it, I urge you to do so.

We are not quite there yet, and there will be detractors, but it looks like we are on the way to making profound changes in the way learning disabled and autistic people are cared for.

Christine Walker is editor of Learning Disability Practice

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