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'Disappointingly slow' progress on community learning disability provision

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Fewer community learning disability nurses Fewer community learning disability nurses means more unnecessary hospital admissions

Hospital admissions for people with learning disabilities have increased despite government commitment to boost community provision, finds the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The Coalition's 2011 pledge to move people with learning disabilities out of hospital and back into their own homes by July 2014 has not been met, the RCN's latest analysis into learning disability services outlines.

The number of people staying in hospitals unnecessarily increased during 2015 with 85% of learning disability nurses saying there were not enough community services for children and adults with learning disabilites. More than 70% of respondents to the RCN's survey of 1100 learning disability nurses, said that community services have been cut in the last year and 63% said that patients are staying in hospital later than they should.

Janet Davies, the chief executive of the RCN, has called progress 'disappointingly slow' as too many people are being stuck in hopsitals too far from their homes. 'The message we are getting from our members is that when it comes to learning disability services, things have got worse not better.'

One of the reasons outlined in Connect for Change: an update for learning disability services in England, is the serious cuts in learning disability nursing roles, of over 1700 positions since 2010. This equates to a third of the total workforce. Over 500 of those nurses have been the most senior and experienced nurses with a reduction of 40% of band 7 and 8 nurses.

As well as this, student nursing places have been slashed by over 30% over the past decade, meaning that there are fewer new nurses joining the workforce. The report warns that abolishing student nurse bursaries will impact even further on the numbers of new learning disability nurses.

'It’s absolutely essential that people with learning disabilities have access to the care and support that allows them to live safely within the community but this won’t be a reality until the ambition for community provision is matched with the right number of nurses to provide that vital support,' added Ms Davies.

The RCN's report echoes Sir Stephen Bubb's, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, report into learning disability services, also released today. The report states that 10,000 extra staff will need to trained to provide sufficient support in the community. Time For Change - The Challenge Ahead, also recommends that a commissioner dedicated to improving the care of people with learning disabilities should be appointed in England. Mr Bubb's report came from the back of the Winterbourne Review, carried out after evidence of poor care in a residentiallearning disabilities service near Bristol was discovered five years ago.

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