The University of East Anglia (UEA) has said it will no longer run its learning disability nursing degree because of a lack of applicants, as the number of nurses working in the profession hits a record low.
Students currently on the undergraduate programme will be able to complete their degree and register as learning disability nurses with the NMC, but no further cohorts will be recruited.
Professor Sally Hardy, dean of health sciences at the UEA, said the executive team at the School of Health Sciences took the ‘difficult decision’ to stop offering the course because of ‘a year-year experience of low application numbers’.
This comes as the latest NHS Digital figures show the number of learning disability nurses working in the NHS in England is at a record low – standing at 3,109 in July 2021, down from 3,453 during the same month in 2016, five years ago, and from 4,757 in the same month a decade ago.
Professor Hardy added that the UEA is ‘actively pursuing other routes and opportunities’ to ensure the health and social care workforce is ‘equipped with necessary skills to expertly care for people with learning disabilities and their families’. More details will be released when possible.
She continued: ‘We remain committed and passionate about ensuring people with a learning disability and their carers get the right support and live valued lives and we will be pursuing other strategies to educate and inform professionals and carers of how best to meet needs.
The RCN urged the Government in June this year to ‘urgently re-double its efforts’ to recruit learning disability nurses because a shortage of staff could be putting lives at risk .
People with learning disabilities are more likely to have serious health conditions, such as congenital heart disease or respiratory illnesses, and die around 25 years sooner than the general population. They were also up to six times more likely to die from Covid during the first wave of the pandemic.