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Learning disability nurses demand targeted recruitment campaign

RCN president says learning disability nursing faces a crisis, as numbers in the field continue to fall

A summit of learning disability nurses has called for a dedicated national advertising campaign to promote the field.


RCN president Cecilia Akrisie Anim:
'The time for talking is over’

Nurses at the summit, hosted by the Learning/Intellectual Disability Nursing Academic Network (LIDNAN), said the field had been largely overlooked in a new national nurse recruitment campaign and now want immediate action.

RCN president Cecilia Akrisie Anim told the event at RCN headquarters in London this week that learning disability nursing in England faced a crisis, adding: ‘The time for talking is over.’

The college’s UK Nursing Labour Market Review, published in January, showed an 18.4% drop in learning disability nurse numbers between 2013 and 2017.

Numbers well below expected demand

Health Education England national learning disability programme manager Tim Devanney said he expects the number of learning disability nurses to be about 30-35% below demand by 2022.

NHS England recently launched a national television and radio advertising campaign to recruit nurses. But those at the summit felt their field was being ignored.


Helen Laverty: ‘Learning disability
nursing is barely mentioned in campaign’

University of Nottingham professional lead for learning disability nursing Helen Laverty said a national recruitment drive had been LIDNAN’s idea, yet the campaign barely mentions learning disability nursing. She called for a specific campaign to promote careers in the field.

Recruitment action plan

The summit created an action plan that includes:

  • A specific learning disabilities recruitment campaign, promoting the career in schools.
  • Encouraging more learning disabilities nurses to become mentors.
  • Celebrating 100 years of learning disability nursing in 2019.
  • Working with mental health and other professions that struggle to recruit on ways to boost numbers.

The plan will be sent to UK's four chief nursing officers in a bid to influence government.

LIDNAN chair Jo Lay said: ‘The challenge now is to decide what the priorities are and who is going to carry that out.’

    Degree programmes' viability

    University representatives told the summit learning disability nursing courses were becoming less viable because of falling applicant numbers, and concerns were raised over the effect of removing the nursing student bursary.

    Mature student applications to nursing degree courses have fallen dramatically since the bursary was removed in England in 2017. According to the Council of Deans of Health, 56% of learning disability nursing students in 2015-16 were aged 25 or over.

    University of Wolverhampton second-year mature learning disability nursing student Ian Unitt, who attended the summit, told Learning Disability Practice: ‘I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford to study if the bursary wasn’t there. But I would have looked into qualifying through a nursing degree apprenticeship.’

    HEE said five universities were accredited to run learning disability nursing degree apprenticeship programmes, but none have done so yet.


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