The number of learning disability (LD) nurses in NHS inpatient and secure units has dropped by almost 60% in 10 years, analysis by the RCN has found.
The analysis of official NHS workforce data shows that since 2009 the NHS in England has lost 2309 LD nurses, and there were there are 1656 fewer LD nurses working in inpatient and secure services. Additionally, the number of LD nurses employed to work in the homes of clients has decreased by a quarter.
‘The standard of care we provide for people with learning disabilities and difficulties has come a long way since 1919, but we can’t rest on our laurels,’ said RCN Professional Lead for Learning Disabilities Ann Norman.
‘In the 20th century, there was a common perception that all we could do for people with intellectual disabilities was take them out of society for their own good. Now, thanks to LD nurses with the right skills, knowledge and experience, people can usually receive the care they need in their community. But this progress won’t be sustained unless we tackle the current staffing crisis.’
The analysis has been released to coincide with learning disability nurses gathering at a House of Lords reception to mark 100 years since the first ‘mental deficiency nurses’ were registered in England.
‘Many of those who apply to become LD nurses are mature students who have had to consider whether they can afford to leave one career to train for another without any financial support. It’s a shame that funding shortages are stopping people pursuing this inspiring career that sees nurses like me using our specialist knowledge to turn lives around,’ said Jonathan Beebee, a learning disability nurse in Southampton and RCN Learning Disability Forum committee member, who is representing the RCN at the event.
‘People with learning disabilities still face many inequalities including a shorter average life expectancy and poorer-than-average health outcomes. We need more nurses to help these people to live fulfilling and independent lives.’