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More needs to be done to support children with learning disabilities, conference hears

People with learning disabilities are being made to seem like they are thieves of the state, a leading nurse has warned

People with learning disabilities are being made to seem like they are thieves of the state, a leading nurse has warned


Consultant learning disabilities nurse Jim Blair speaking at the conference. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Consultant learning disabilities nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital Jim Blair challenged society's treatment and view of people with learning disabilities.

He said: ‘They are seen as people that don’t have the same value or worth of those without learning disabilities.

‘The UK is the fifth richest country in the world, and yet we permit 1,200 people with a learning disability to die avoidable deaths a year. That’s three and a half per day.’

Mr Blair was speaking at the Nursing Children and Young People Conference in Liverpool on 9 November.

He asked nurses to think carefully about why people with learning disabilities react the way they do and not to dismiss behaviours because they have a disability.

'Blinded by disability'

‘If I go and smack my head against the wall, you are not going to say, “that’s just what white guys at 50 who come up to Liverpool from London do”.

‘But if I have got a learning disability, you might throw that into the mix. Do you see how we get blinded by the disability instead of thinking about what they are doing?’


Learning disability nurse Joann Kiernan. Picture: Neil O'Connor

He spoke alongside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust consultant learning disability nurse Joann Kiernan.

She told delegates that less than 50% of NHS hospitals have a learning disability nurse.

She challenged children’s nurses to use their ‘fabulous’ skills for helping children with poor communication to help those who have learning disabilities.

Ms Kiernan explained that people with learning disabilities can misunderstand instructions of where to go or to wait, and misread social cues, and so for example, can be surprised when somebody takes their blood.


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