Editorial

Learning disability nurse numbers heading in the wrong direction

Improving services for vulnerable people will require more, not fewer, traning places, writes editor Graham Scott.
Graham Scott

The UK’s record on supporting people with learning disabilities is patchy to say the least. For decades people were housed in inappropriate institutions where abuse was rife, and attempts to improve their lives by delivering better services in the community have come up short because they have not been afforded sufficient priority.

Those responsible for public policy in this area speak passionately and genuinely about their desire to improve services, experiences and outcomes for this client group.

Shifting priorities

But translating these sincerely held aspirations into reality has proved difficult, especially in a climate where the performance of NHS hospitals grabs all the headlines, and with it the attention of those who decide where public money is spent.

Nurses caring for people with learning disabilities are left to cope with the consequences. To make matters worse, their numbers have been dwindling and their roles becoming

The UK’s record on supporting people with learning disabilities is patchy to say the least. For decades people were housed in inappropriate institutions where abuse was rife, and attempts to improve their lives by delivering better services in the community have come up short because they have not been afforded sufficient priority.

Those responsible for public policy in this area speak passionately and genuinely about their desire to improve services, experiences and outcomes for this client group.

Shifting priorities

But translating these sincerely held aspirations into reality has proved difficult, especially in a climate where the performance of NHS hospitals grabs all the headlines, and with it the attention of those who decide where public money is spent.

Nurses caring for people with learning disabilities are left to cope with the consequences. To make matters worse, their numbers have been dwindling and their roles becoming less clearly defined.

As Nursing Standard reveals this week, fewer learning disability pre-registration training places are being commissioned than was the case two years ago, so the situation is likely to deteriorate.

It is not all doom and gloom: the finalists in the learning disability category of this year’s RCNi Nurse Awards demonstrate that nurses are driving up standards and championing the cause of the clients they serve to great effect.

Empowering more nurses to do the same and increasing the numbers being trained would at least demonstrate that, as a nation, we really do care about vulnerable people.


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