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More learning disability nurses needed to improve care for people with autism, RCN urges

RCN highlights need after inquiry revealed nine in ten people with autism said healthcare staff 'didn't understand' their care needs
Autism nurse

The RCN has called for more learning disability nurses after report reveals nearly nine in 10 people with autism said healthcare staff 'didn't understand' their care needs.

The call came in the wake of an inquiry which found health professionals need better training on how to care for patients with autism.

The Westminster Commission on Autism found patients with autism are missing out on the support they need from the NHS due to lack of staff training and insufficient knowledge.

Recommendations

The commission made a series of recommendations following a seven-month inquiry involving healthcare professionals, patients and their families.

They concluded:

  • That the Care Quality Commission should add the care provided to autistic patients to its investigation criteria
  • NHS England should appoint a national clinical director for autism as well as provide training in autism to all health professionals after 88%

Autism nurse

The RCN has called for more learning disability nurses after report reveals nearly nine in 10 people with autism said healthcare staff 'didn't understand' their care needs.

The call came in the wake of an inquiry which found health professionals need better training on how to care for patients with autism.

The Westminster Commission on Autism found patients with autism are missing out on the support they need from the NHS due to lack of staff training and insufficient knowledge.

Recommendations

The commission made a series of recommendations following a seven-month inquiry involving healthcare professionals, patients and their families.

They concluded: 

  • That the Care Quality Commission should add the care provided to autistic patients to its investigation criteria
  • NHS England should appoint a national clinical director for autism as well as provide training in autism to all health professionals after 88% of patients surveyed claimed they did not understand their needs
  • The Department of Health should launch a time-limited autism and health innovation fund for applications to develop resources and mentoring programmes to help autistic people access healthcare

RCN Learning Disability Forum member Simon Jones said: 'We already had the Autism Act in 2009 which was meant to have achieved all these aims.

‘The message has been stated many times before, but clearly it’s still not getting through and progress has been slow.’

‘The people who can really do something to improve care for autistic people are learning disability nurses – and yet their number reduces drastically year-on-year.’

Time to change

Westminster Commission on Autism chair and Labour MP Barry Sheerman said: 'Our health professionals are committed and well-intentioned. 

'However, despite the Autism Act, many still have had no autism training whatsoever nor are supported in consulting with autistic patients. This must change now.'

Further information:

Westminster Commission on Autism report A Spectrum of Obstacles

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