Halt cuts to learning disability services, specialist nurses urge RCN congress

Learning disability nurses condemn cuts to funding and curbs on their numbers

Passionate pleas to halt the decline in learning disability nurse numbers and funding have been made this week at the RCN congress.

At the event in Glasgow, several specialist nurses condemned six years’ of cuts to their services.

Austerity measures

During a matter-for-discussion debate at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Central Manchester member Hamish Kemp blamed the transfer of budgetary responsibility from central government to local authorities on the decline in nurse numbers. He said austerity measures were to blame.

Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group’s lead nurse and director of clinical quality and patient safety Soline Jerram said the NHS England's Transforming Care programme had led to the creation of 48 partnerships in England. However, she described the funding provided as being woefully inadequate.


Suffolk branch member Sarah Seeley called on members to consider the effect on the physical health of people with a learning disability when they are transferred from health to social care.

Suffolk RCN branch member Sarah Seeley
Suffolk RCN branch member Sarah Seeley. Picture: John Houlihan

She said promises made in Department of Health and NHS England reviews into the physical and psychological abuse of patients at Winterbourne View Hospital in 2011 had not been achieved. She also said that ‘people with learning disabilities are still living away from their loved ones’.

Best practice

Positive Behaviour Support 4's learning disability nurse Jonathan Beebee, also spoke during the debate. The night before, he had led a fringe meeting on best practice when working with learning disability patients.

The founder of the social enterprise and colleague James Blair had explained how 3.5 patients with learning disabilities die every day in NHS hospitals and that life-expectancy in some cases was up to 20-years less than for other patients. They gave an example of a patient at Great Ormond Street who panicked while in recovery, causing nine operations to be cancelled and costing the hospital around £450,000.

Mr Blair added: ‘Since specialist learning disability nurses were introduced, the impact they have made has meant that kind of situation has never happened again.’

Further information:

RCN congress debate: learning disabilities

Positive Behaviour Support 4 social enterprise

NHS England report: Transforming Care

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.