Loss of specialist learning disability nurses and training posts blamed for service failings

RCN publishes report into state of learning disability services

Patients are being failed because of cuts to the number of learning disability nurses (LDNs) and their training places, the RCN has said.

The college was responding to Sir Stephen Bubb’s report Time for Change – The Challenge Ahead, setting out progress in the transformation of learning disability services.

Sir Stephen published a report in 2014 recommending action following the scandal at the Winterbourne View residential hospital in Bristol where patients were abused.

He called for the closure of inappropriate institutions and the ramping up of community provision. But in his latest report, Sir Stephen said the government has been ‘over-optimistic’ in its plans to implement his recommendations.

A learning disabilities commissioner should be appointed to oversee change, he said, and 10,000 more staff members are needed to support people in the community.

The RCN responded with its report Connect for Change, which says:

* Since 2010 the service workforce has been cut by 1,700 nursing posts, one third of which were senior nurses.

* In the past decade, training places for LDNs fell by 30%. Meanwhile, government plans to replace nursing bursaries with loans from next year ‘could impact even further on the creation of a new generation (of LDNs)’.

* One million adults and children in England have learning disabilities, with many ‘still unable to receive the care and support they need, because of issues with staffing, services and strategy’.

* A recent RCN survey of LDNs in 2015 shows 85% feel there are not enough community services to care for adults and children with learning disabilities.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said that patients with learning disabilities are still ‘being badly let down' and that the message the college received from its LDN members was ‘things have got worse, not better’.

She called for ‘a solid workforce strategy’ and added: ‘LDNs are specialists in what they do, yet there has been a greater reduction in this branch of nursing than in any other area of the workforce.’

Health Education England said it expects to have trained an additional 1,800 LDNs by 2020.

England's chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, responding on behalf of NHS England, insisted it remained confident of ‘making quick, significant and lasting improvements’.

She said: ‘[Sir Stephen's latest] report is right to point to the importance of early intervention and the need for staff with the right skills to help deliver the improvements in care and choice.

‘Local partnerships between the NHS and councils are currently developing plans which will address both of these issues and are gearing up to start implementing these plans from April.’

Ms Cummings is chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board, which is implementing the government’s plans set out in October last year.

This will see 48 transforming care partnerships set up across England to reshape local services to meet the needs of individuals.

Read the Sir Stephen’s report here.

Read the RCN report here


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