The regulator acknowledged a “fatal gap” in the knowledge of healthcare professionals.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has welcomed the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation focussing on the training of health and care professionals to better support people living with learning disability and autism.
The consultation proposes all health and social care staff should receive mandatory learning disabilities and autism training.
In response to the consultation, the NMC has acknowledged a “fatal gap” in the knowledge of healthcare professionals and called for regular, ongoing learning disability and autism training for staff rather than one-off training sessions. Emphasising that training should be specifically tailored to those working in care homes, schools and prisons in addition to hospitals and GP surgeries.
The regulator also promised to have a “stronger focus” on learning disabilities and autism in undergraduate nursing programs.
Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “People with a learning disability and autistic people, their families and carers, have the same right as anyone else to receive safe and effective health and care.
“Instead; the shameful reality is people with a learning disability die, on average, 14 to 18 years sooner than the general population. 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.
“Much needs to be done to improve this situation. From our work at the NMC, we know the vital difference that health and care professionals make to the lives of people with learning disabilities and autistic people when they are equipped with the right skills and training.
“Through our own programme to reform nursing and midwifery education, we are already working to ensure that professionals across all health and care settings have the knowledge and understanding to support people with learning disabilities and autistic people to live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Simple changes can help.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, previously said the training “has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of autistic people”
“This is a direct result of Paula McGowan’s tireless campaigning, in memory of her son Oliver, including her petition which gained over 50,000 signatures. We are proud to support Paula’s campaign and will continue to work with her to make sure the Government honours its commitment.
“Many autistic people continue to have much worse physical and mental health than the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early. Making sure that all healthcare staff understand autism, and the often simple changes that can help autistic people, is an important step to tackling this unacceptable health inequality – and creating a society that works for autistic people.”