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Nurses need protected time for training in learning disabilities and autism, says NMC

NMC issues response to ongoing government consultation on mandatory training

All nurses should have protected time to learn how to better care for people with learning disabilities and autism, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has said.


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The regulator made the recommendation in its response to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) ongoing consultation on mandatory autism and learning disability training for health and care staff in England.

High-profile deaths

Calls for mandatory training were sparked by a series of high-profile cases involving the deaths of people with learning disabilities.

These included Oliver McGowan, an 18-year-old with autism and a learning disability who died after being given medication both he and his family had asked not to be administered because of previous reactions.

The consultation proposes staff must receive training which includes:

  • Challenging attitudes which can lead to a failure to spot key symptoms.

  • Ensuring individuals, their carers and families are listened to.

  • Knowledge of the rights of people with autism and learning disabilities.

'Shameful reality'

The NMC recommended nurses and midwives should receive ongoing learning and training opportunities on the issue rather than isolated sessions, and the government should consider providing protected learning time for them.

It also recommended training should match the variety of settings nurses and midwives worked in, including care homes, schools and prisons as well as hospitals and other health settings.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said it was a ‘shameful reality’ that people with learning disabilities died on average 14 to 18 years earlier than the general population.

Proper support for vulnerable patients

‘There are too many heart-breaking stories where the individual needs of people in the most vulnerable of circumstances have not been recognised, listened to, acted on or properly supported,’ she said.

The consultation is open until 26 April.

The RCN has previously called for nurses to receive a legal guarantee for time for continuing professional development


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