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Learning disability training boosts nurses’ skills and confidence, trial finds

Learning disability training boosts nurses’ skills and confidence, trial finds

The trial of a new training scheme had a positive impact on the knowledge, skills and confidence of health and care staff in working and communicating with autistic people and those with a learning disability, a study has found.

In 2019 the government committed to develop and test a standardised training package on learning disability and autism, which is being co-ordinated by Health Education England (HEE) and Skills for Care.

Over the last two years, the training has been trialled in different ways, and was delivered to more than 8,300 health and care staff across England.

The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism scheme is named after the teenager who died in 2016 after being given antipsychotic drugs by hospital staff. McGowan’s mother Paula launched a campaign to make training on caring for people with a learning disability and autistic people mandatory for all health and care staff.

The report showed the training had a positive impact on participants’ awareness and understanding of learning disability and autism, which ranged from knowing how to make reasonable adjustments for patients, to challenging their preconceptions – with several participants saying it gave them the confidence to challenge poor practice.

The training has been co-designed and co-delivered by people with a learning disability, autistic people, family carers and subject matter experts – and their involvement was highlighted as having a major impact on participants. The trainers’ passion and insight into learning disability and autism was praised for ensuring the sessions were authentic and powerful.

The Health and Care Act 2022 includes a new requirement for Care Quality Commission-registered service providers to ensure healthcare staff including nurses receive learning disability and autism training appropriate to their role.

Paula McGowan said the standout comments for her were ‘staff saying that they would change their practises going forward’ and ‘how they felt empowered to advocate better for people with learning disabilities and autistic people’.

Senior responsible officer for Health Education England, Philippa Spicer, said: ‘These results highlight areas that have worked really well and others that can be developed further, and the trial gives us a range of evidence that will inform and shape the next steps for the training.

‘It has been inspiring to read feedback from participants demonstrating how the training has had a positive impact on their understanding of learning disabilities and autism – and how they have since applied it in their day-to-day work.’

Minister for care and mental health Gillian Keegan added: ‘The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training will help people with learning disabilities and autism get the right care at the right time. This has been a collaborative effort, and we will work together with partners to develop a training package that is taken up by the health and social care sector.’

The Department for Health and Social Care will use the evaluation to inform a wider rollout of the training.

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