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Nurses’ mandatory learning disability training proves a success

Nurses report better knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating with people with learning disabilities or autism after Oliver McGowan mandatory training
Picture shows a group of nurses with patient with a learning disabilities

Nurses report better knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating with people with learning disabilities or autism after Oliver McGowan mandatory training

Mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism has been found to boost knowledge, skills and confidence among nurses and other healthcare staff.

Evaluation of the Oliver McGowan mandatory training in learning disability and autism found it had made staff more aware of the needs of patients with learning disabilities and autism and prompted them to change the way they worked.

The training recently became enshrined in law for health and care staff after being included in the

Nurses report better knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating with people with learning disabilities or autism after Oliver McGowan mandatory training

Picture shows a group of nurses with patient with a learning disabilities
Nurses learning about patients with learning disabilities Picture: David Gee

Mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism has been found to boost knowledge, skills and confidence among nurses and other healthcare staff.

Evaluation of the Oliver McGowan mandatory training in learning disability and autism found it had made staff more aware of the needs of patients with learning disabilities and autism and prompted them to change the way they worked.

The training recently became enshrined in law for health and care staff after being included in the Health and Social Care Act.

Oliver McGowan
Oliver McGowan

It is named in memory of Bristol teenager Oliver McGowan, who had autism and died after being given antipsychotic drugs by hospital staff.

His parents have campaigned for better staff training on autism and learning disability since his death in 2016.

In 2019 the government committed to developing a standardised training package led by Health Education England and Skills for Care.

Training has been tested in a trial involving over 8,300 health and care staff

Over the past two years, the training has been tested in different ways in a trial involving more than 8,300 health and care staff across England.

The training comprises two levels – basic training for all health and care employees who may occasionally interact with people with learning disabilities and autism (Tier 1 training), and more detailed training for nurses and others who may provide direct care and support (Tier 2 training)

All staff who took part in Tier 2 training said their knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating with people with learning disabilities or autism had improved.

Analysis of interviews and survey comments found it had a positive impact on participants’ awareness and understanding.

Key findings from Tier 2 training

Most participants agreed or strongly agreed the training had:

  • Provided new learning about learning disabilities (80% to 90%) and autism (80% to 87%)
  • Made them more aware of the needs in healthcare settings of people with learning disabilities (81% to 94%) and autism (83% to 94%)
  • Given them new ideas for things to do to better support people with learning disabilities (85% to 90%) and autism (88% to 92%) in their own work

The evaluation found 61% to 88% of people who had completed Tier 2 training reported doing something different when supporting someone autistic or with a learning disability.

Oliver’s mother, Paula McGowan, said she was delighted with the results. ‘The standout comments for me were staff saying that they would change their practises going forward, to hear staff reflect on how they felt empowered to advocate better for people with learning disabilities and autistic people,’ she said.

‘Oliver’s training has been co-designed, delivered and evaluated alongside people with learning disabilities, autistic people, and those with lived experience. Their voices have been heard every step of the way.’


Find out more

Evaluating the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training Trial in Learning Disability and Autism

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