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Hospital Healthcare Europe
Hospital Healthcare Europe

Learning disability care: time for a change?

17 June, 2010  

By Hiriyti Bairu

Over the past ten years the role of nurses has significantly changed as they have acquired knowledge and skills in other specialist areas.

Practice nurses work in general practitioner (GP) practices and their role involves assessment, screening, treatment, care and education to registered patients.

The GMS contract which came into force on 1st April 2004 states practice nurses will have the chance to extend their roles in areas such as chronic disease management, first contact care and preventative care.
Recently the NHS have been criticised for not recognising the  importance of having learning disabilities nurses as they have the required skills to care for patients with learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities nursing is usually carried out in places such as the patients home, adult residential and community centres, workplaces and schools.

Nurses could have the required skills in areas such as education, sensory disability or the management of services. Some of those who work in a residential setting, may have to do shifts to provide 24-hour care.

Patients with learning disablities were percevied to recieve poor care when compared to other groups.

A report carried out by Mencap in 2007, Death by Indifference, revealed six cases of people with a learning disability who died unexpectedly in NHS hospitals.

The report states that healthcare professionals such as nurses
have not recieved training to understand learning disability. The Disability Rights Commission has estabished that healthcare professionals sometimes confuse the signs  that show someone is ill with their learning disability. This is called diagnostic overshadowing.

Do you think the NHS needs to meet this demand and make changes to accomodate nurses who have skills in this field?