Learning disability nurses must be placed in ‘all settings and all areas’ to ensure effective reasonable adjustments are made for people with a learning disability and to prevent unavoidable deaths, a committee of MPs has been told.
Meanwhile, the importance of ‘bespoke, tailored’ learning disability training for staff across different health and care settings has also been highlighted.
Learning disability nurse consultant Jim Blair told the Women and Equalities Committee on Wednesday that ensuring learning disabilities nurses worked across all settings was a ‘central factor’ in stopping unavoidable deaths and increasing life expectancy among people with a learning disability.
‘In order to make effective reasonable adjustments for those with learning disabilities and their family members, we need to have learning disability nurses in all settings and all areas. That is the wish of families and the people themselves,’ he said.
Mr Blair said this included in general practice, cardiac wards, emergency departments and across all primary, acute and social care services.
‘Really it is wherever people with learning disabilities are,’ he said.
Mr Blair also stressed the need for ‘significant leadership’ among learning disability nurses.
‘You need to have learning disability nurses in significant positions of power to change things, and to lead, shape and direct the services,’ he told the committee.
‘They should not just be in junior posts. That doesn’t work as well as it could do.’
The latest Learning from Lives and Deaths – people with a learning disability and autistic people (LeDeR) review showed that 49% of deaths in people with learning disabilities in 2021 were avoidable.
The report also found that the average life expectancy for people with learning disabilities was 20 years lower than in the general population, with the median age at which a person with a learning disability died being 62.
‘The bottom line is that it is about saving lives, because life expectancy is going down,’ said Mr Blair. ‘More and more people are dying avoidably and unnecessarily, as well as having poor life experiences in a variety of care settings.’
MPs asked Mr Blair about the introduction of the Oliver McGowan mandatory training on learning disability and autism which was launched last year.
While Mr Blair welcomed mandatory training, he stressed training should be ‘separate for separate people’ across different healthcare settings.
‘For example, the training I provide in a forensic setting is very different from what I provide in primary care,’ he said. ‘The needs are not the same.’
Mr Blair added: So while I think mandatory training is good, we must not think that it will be a panacea. It is a vital steppingstone, but you must still have bespoke, tailored training for those areas, and must always involve lived experience – be that sibling or parental experience, or the service user’s own lived experience.’