Strengthening the Commitment - The Interim Report of Scotland's National Implementation Group

The publication of Strengthening the Commitment: the report of the UK Modernising Learning Disability Nursing Review brought a welcome focus on learning disability nursing at UK and Scotland level. This interim report presents progress in Scotland. It provides an overview of successes, best practice and outlines the next steps in continuing our commitment to strengthening learning disability nursing and ensuring people with a learning disability receive the care they want, need and deserve.

Chapter 4. Strengthening the profession

Recommendation 15. Leadership and management

Leadership in learning disability nursing needs to be strengthened in practice, education and research settings with robust, visible leadership at all levels, including strategic and national levels. Services must ensure all learning disability nurses in practice have access to a dedicated professional lead for learning disability nursing. In addition to existing leadership and development programmes, a UK-wide cross-sector project to nurture and develop aspiring leaders in learning disability nursing will be led by the four country health departments.

In Scotland’s Delivery Action Plan, we said we would:

  • develop an action plan to strengthen learning disability nurse leadership in Scotland.

We asked local implementation groups to

  • identify local professional leads for learning disability nursing
  • identify future professional leads and support succession planning
  • ensure the implementation of the Strengthening the Commitment action plan is embedded within the senior nurse’s objectives and personal development plans.


The UK Steering group for Strengthening the Commitment commissioned the Positive Choices team in July 2013 to deliver ‘Decide, Commit, Proceed’, a leadership course for third-year learning disability nursing students. Forty-two students from the four countries attended an intensive two-day programme and went on to access mentorship from a learning disability nurse leader for 18 months. Four students from Scotland were selected for the programme and members of the National Implementation Group were involved in delivering sessions and mentoring students.

A number of time-limited posts have been developed to increase visible leadership and enable leadership development in learning disability nursing at national level, including education projects manager (8B) and project lead (7) posts at NES and the two professional advisor posts at the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Learning Disability Senior Nurse Group has revised its remit and membership and is now taking a more visible leadership role, a key part of which is supporting implementation of Strengthening the Commitment across Scotland. The group aims to influence the vision for, and delivery of, learning disability nursing in Scotland and share best practice, development and education for the benefit of people using services and their families.

The group prepared a position paper on leadership that was launched at the Senior Nurse Group conference in September. The conference provided an opportunity to share the group’s work, particularly around leadership, career development and new ways of working with wider stakeholders. The National Implementation Group will consider and seek to progress the recommendations on leadership from the position paper.

Positive practice

All students from Scotland who attended the ‘Decide, Commit, Proceed’ programme were asked to join their local implementation group. One of the students, Amy Hutchison, was also asked to present about her experiences at Scotland’s Senior Nurse Group conference. Amy talked about how her experience has built her confidence as she develops leadership skills in her role: the following is an extract from her presentation.

The first day focused on what is leadership in learning disability nursing and what can we do to maximise our leadership potential. We were asked to write a letter to ourselves detailing two leadership goals; we received the letter one year following the completion of the event – I am happy to confirm I have since achieved both my goals.

For eighteen months after the event, we had the opportunity to contact an allocated mentor via postcards. We advised them of any leadership steps we have taken, no matter how big or small. As well as being able to share achievements and good practice, this has also strengthened my network with influential leaders in nursing whom I may never have had the opportunity to meet.

Overall, ‘Decide, Commit, Proceed’ has assisted me to develop and understand my skills and qualities as an effective leader, as well as that of others.

For more information, contact Amy Hutchison at:

Recommendation 16. Promoting the profession

Learning disability nurses need mechanisms to share best practice and develop the evidence base to continue to advance as a profession. Services must support learning disability nurses to participate in appropriate networks. A UK academic network for learning disability nurses will be created to support this drive.

In Scotland’s Delivery Action Plan, we said we would:

  • implement a national awards scheme for excellence in practice
  • increase non-community nursing membership of the Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Network by 25% and independent sector nursing membership by 10%
  • ask the Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Network to scope the development of communities of practice within the network linked to the NHSScotland Managed Knowledge Network
  • ask educationalists to scope their contribution to the UK Learning Disabilities Nursing Academic Network to ensure Scottish representation.

We asked local implementation groups to:

  • ask learning disability nursing members of local implementation groups to join the Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Network and promote and support the network locally.


The UK Learning Disabilities Nursing Academic Network has been created and currently has around 400 members. Its aims are to:

  • represent and promote learning disability nursing education, research and practice development by, for example, actively participating in key national and international committees and working groups
  • influence and respond to the UK learning disability nursing agenda through well informed debate, discussion and the dissemination of material that reflects its views on a range of issues
  • act as a source of consultation and advice to learning disability nurses and others on learning disability nursing education and research
  • share good practice and innovations in the development and conduct of learning disability nursing education and research.

The UK Academic Network has created a community of practice website to share good practice (available at: Scotland’s learning disability nursing academics are members of the network.

The Scottish Community Learning Disability Network reviewed and expanded its role following the launch of Strengthening the Commitment to include learning disability nurses working in all settings. The network held an annual conference and innovation in practice awards ceremony in June 2013 as part of the launch of the new Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Network, with nursing excellence being recognised. The network has also revised its steering group to include nurses representing in-patient units and student nurses and is further developing opportunities to involve nursing colleagues working outside the NHS.

In addition to the UK Strengthening the Commitment Facebook page, we now also have a Twitter account – Scotland LD Nurses @StCScot – to share information about how Scotland is taking forward Strengthening the Commitment.

Positive practice

The 2014 Scottish Learning Disability Nursing Network annual conference included presentations from last year’s innovations in practice award winners and first-year student nurses from Glasgow Caledonian University. The event gave learning disability nurses a chance to hear about innovations in practice and provided speakers with an opportunity to develop their skills in presenting to large audiences.

For more information, contact Billy Pate at:

“Everyone needs to know about Strengthening the Commitment because learning disability nurses have a role in teaching people working in other services how to work well with people with learning disabilities.”

Reference Group member

Recommendation 17. Research and evidence

Learning disability nursing research should be extended to ensure practice now and in the future is evidence based and the impact of interventions can be demonstrated. Services and education providers must ensure that all existing and future schemes for clinical academic careers have appropriate representation of learning disability nurses.

In Scotland’s Delivery Action Plan, we said we would:

  • scope current research activity in learning disability nursing practice across Scotland
  • ask higher education institutions to establish strong links with the Scottish Learning Disability Observatory
  • identify priorities for collaborative research by engaging with people with learning disabilities and all key stakeholders, including universities, The Keys to Life (the Scottish Government learning disability strategy) and the Scottish Learning Disability Observatory.

We asked local implementation groups to:

  • support the development of the national database and research agenda.


The Scottish Learning Disability Senior Nurse Group has carried out some initial scoping of current research activity in learning disability services which shows that learning disability nurses across Scotland are contributing to the research agenda in a range of ways. This is an area, however, that could be further strengthened.

Two learning disability nurses commenced the Early Clinical Career Fellowships in September 2014. The Early Clinical Career Fellowships offer an opportunity for nurses and midwives who are committed to developing their leadership potential in the early stages of their career. The fellowships are funded by the Scottish Government.

Professor Ruth Northway has developed LD Nurse Research, a Facebook page designed to help grow learning disability nursing research. The resource provides a forum for researchers to raise awareness of their work, a mechanism for asking research-related questions and an access portal to experienced researchers. It is hoped that LD Nurse Research will be able to assist researchers by signposting them to relevant guidelines, sources of funding and forthcoming conferences.

Positive practice

Learning disability nurses Sam Abdulla (NHS Lothian) and Nicola Braid (NHS Fife) have been successful in being selected to the Early Career Clinical Fellowships. The fellowships include release from practice to access funded part-time Master’s-level education, mentorship/clinical coaching, action learning sets and masterclasses.

For more information, contact Sam Abdulla at: or Nicola Braid at:

Two nurse consultants in Scotland have recently secured senior academic positions in recognition of their contribution to the literature and evolving evidence base. The nurse consultant in NHS Lothian has been appointed as a professor at Edinburgh Napier University and the consultant in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde as an honorary clinical associate professor at the University of Glasgow.

For more information, contact Michael Brown at: or Linda Allan at:


Email: Scott Taylor

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