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Every nurse should have learning disability training, says bereaved mother

Healthcare professionals should have mandatory training in learning disability and autism, says mother of teenager who died in hospital

Healthcare professionals should have mandatory training in learning disability and autism, says mother of teenager who died in hospital


Oliver McGowan died after being given antipsychotic medication.

The mother of a teenager who died after receiving antipsychotic medication in hospital has set up a petition calling for all healthcare professionals to have mandatory training in learning disability and autism.

Paula McGowan believes the death of her son Oliver, 18, could have been avoided. Oliver, who had a mild learning disability and high-functioning autism, died in hospital after being given antipsychotic medication.

Ms McGowan says Oliver and the family had asked hospital staff not to administer such medication to him because of reactions he had experienced in the past. He was not diagnosed as having a mental health condition.

Adjustments to care

Ms McGowan says she felt nurses and doctors were unable to communicate with Oliver and lacked training in how to make basic life-saving adjustments to care.

She says: ‘We have become aware in the most painful way of the scandal of unequal healthcare suffered by people with a learning disability. We can all help to stop other families going through this. The doctors who dealt with Oliver did not understand his needs. They ignored our warnings about antipsychotic medication.’

Ms McGowan says Oliver needed reassurance, humour and to be spoken to by one person at a time, rather than several people 'crowding' him. ‘Most importantly, listening to Oliver and ourselves, as we knew him best.

'We were appalled to learn that so many doctors and nurses have never had training on learning and or autism disability. We firmly believe this is contributing to avoidable deaths and we are not alone in this thinking – many doctors and nurses are supporting Oliver’s petition.’


The online petition launched by Oliver McGowan’s family.

 

The Learning Disability Mortality Review published in May found that people with a learning disability die on average 22.8 years earlier than the general population for males and 29.3 years for females.

Chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, Jan Tregelles, said: ‘Oliver’s family have been through unimaginable pain yet continue to fight to improve the healthcare of people with a learning disability. We urge people to read Oliver’s story and sign their important petition.’

Mencap research

She said Mencap’s research showed that almost a quarter (23%) of healthcare professionals had never received training on learning disability, and almost half believed that was contributing to avoidable deaths.

Ms Tregelles said: ‘Estimates suggest three people with a learning disability die needlessly every day. This cannot continue. No health professional should be allowed to set foot in a hospital without having had training on providing healthcare to people with a learning disability.’

The petition has exceeded the 10,000 signatures required for a government response. If it reaches 100,000 signatures there could be a debate in parliament.


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