To ensure that the health and social care systems are prepared for the changing health needs of people with learning disabilities the four home countries’ government lead nurses initiated a review into learning disabilities nursing. ‘Strengthening the commitment: the report of the UK Modernising Learning Disabilities Nursing Review,’ was published in April 2012 and aims to provide focus and direction for the development of the profession, enhance its image, profile and contribution, and importantly ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to the expert nursing care they need. There is also an 'easy-read' version avaiable.
In the rest of this blog Ben Thomas, Professional Officer for Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing, sets out the progress to date:
The Learning Disability Nurse Consultants have developed an outcome framework based on the five determinants of health inequalities. Initially developed by nurses for nurses, the Health Equalities Framework (HEF) can be used in all services to measure their effectiveness in tackling health inequalities (HEF) for people with learning disabilities. It allows information to be aggregated on a team, locality or services basis and will appeal to commissioners, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Public Health Departments. The HEF will be launched in Leeds on 6th March and an electronic version can be downloadable from the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) website
While research in learning disabilities nursing is increasing many areas remain under-researched. There is a need to develop robust evidence which can then inform practice, particularly into the efficacy of interventions, health promotion and prevention approaches. To bring a greater focus, extend research activities, strengthen education and training and implement research findings in practice, we have a established a UK Learning Disability Nurse Academic Group. The group will look at areas that would benefit from collaborative research and larger-scale and comparative studies that will make a real difference to the health and well being of people with learning disabilities, and will also investigate the input learning disability lecturers have into other fields of nursing.
Many learning disabilities nurses work in the independent sector as well as in the NHS, but we need a clearer picture of the situation to plan for a high quality, sustainable learning disabilities nursing workforce across all sectors. So, following two successful collaborative conferences, the national collaborative was launched earlier this month. To capture information on service provision in the NHS and better understanding of the learning disabilities workforce a survey questionnaire has been developed and will be sent to all Trust Nurse Directors in the coming weeks. The survey also seeks information on the local implementation of the recommendations.
Unfortunately, people with learning disabilities still experience inequalities in acute services. ‘Strengthening the Commitment’ recommends that commissioners and providers of health and social care should ensure that learning disabilities nurses are able to collaborate effectively with general health services. Following last year’s successful conference in Hull addressing many of the inequalities in acute hospital Trusts, we plan to hold another event in the south of the country this year and survey the numbers of acute liaison nurses working in acute hospital Trusts.
These are just some of the areas where progress has been made. Many of the recommendations will take a longer period to implement, some are complex and will involve transformational change. To share best practice and develop the evidence base we have set-up a Strengthening the Commitment Facebook page . Use this form to share your examples of good practice Strengthening the Commitment . You can also follow the progress of the UK steering group on Twitter @UKLDNursing #StC.
England’s implementation group will drive forward this work, remain accountable for its delivery and provide updates on progress, but we all need to be engaged and have a part in making sure the recommendations are implemented and that in future people with learning disabilities have the best health care and support, they need and deserve.
Dr Ben Thomas
Follow me on Twitter @BenT_DH