Editorial

New funding is welcome, but is it enough?

As the nursing workforce dwindles, the needs of people with learning disabilities may not be met

The government has put £100 million into the transforming care partnerships that are attempting to discharge people with learning disabilities from hospital-type care. This is a lot of money and clear evidence that England’s chief nursing officer, who chairs the Transforming Care Delivery Board, means business.

Five years after the Winterbourne View scandal, the government has shown it has the will to make things happen. The money is in place and the plans are shaping up.

But while this is welcome news, the RCN has voiced concerns about a shortage of learning disability nurses to make it happen.

Maximising health

The NHS learning disability nursing workforce has shrunk over the years, with many staff now working outside the health service in the independent and charity sectors, where many ‘patients’ receive care.

This is how it should be: people with learning disabilities should be in contact with health services only to maximise their health and when they are recovering from illness.

But the government says that up to 24,000 people with learning disabilities are ‘at risk’ of admission, which means that they may be one step away from needing learning disability nursing care.

With the NHS workforce dwindling there is a danger that their health needs will be neglected. 

Safety net

Over the next few years the safety net for people with learning disabilities may become eroded as more senior nurses approach retirement age and the number of nursing students in training is reduced.

I can foresee problems ahead, with increased demand for specialist nursing care coming at a time when the resources available to provide it is diminishing. 

I hope I am wrong.

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