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£2m investment is set to boost learning disability nursing workforce

Health Education England will fund apprenticeships for 230 new specialist nurses 

Health Education England cash boost will be used to train 230 learning disability specialist nurses and 150 nursing associates  


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A £2 million investment into the learning disability workforce will result in 380 new nursing professionals in the next four years.

Health Education England announced the financial boost to increase the learning disability workforce by 230 specialist nurses and 150 trainee nursing associates.

The trainees are expected to start their courses by March 2020 with the first graduates entering the workforce by 2021. 

Four routes to become a learning disability nurse

  • Nurses taking a second registration qualification: 10 places on a one-year programme
  • Post-graduate apprenticeships: 100 places on a two-year programme
  • Undergraduate apprenticeships: 100 places on a 3.5-year programme
  • Trainee nurse associate route: 20 places on a two-year nurse associate apprenticeship followed by a two-year registered nurse apprenticeship

The 150 trainee nursing associates included in the announcement will be employed to spend at least 50% of their time in learning disability services.

While welcoming the announcement, the RCN highlighted that the number of learning disability nurses has dropped by 60% from 5,553 to 3,244, over the last 10 years.

'A good start'

RCN professional lead for learning disabilities Ann Norman, described the workforce boost as 'not enough, but it’s a good start'.

‘It is reassuring that this often under-recognised area of nursing is getting much-needed investment in the absence of widespread support for the training and investment in nursing as a whole,' she added.

Ms Norman also said that issues such as student funding needed to be rectified so that the NHS could retain incoming nurses and nursing associates.

Specialised workforce

Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May also welcomed the extra investment into learning disability workforce.

‘Learning disability nurses are a vital and highly specialised part of the nursing profession, working with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and making a positive difference to their lives,' she said. 


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