This report celebrates the achievements of learning disability nurses across the United Kingdom and the difference they have made, and continue to make, to the lives and health outcomes of people with learning disabilities.
Three years ago, Strengthening the Commitment set out a range of challenges based on principles and values that are important to people with learning disabilities, their families and carers. UK government health departments, employers, educators, people with learning disabilities, their families and carers, learning disability nurses, students and wider health and social care staff have all risen to these challenges and are now delivering a significantly improved, person-centred, and imaginative service for people with learning disabilities.
The four countries have worked together to address the challenges and through visible, high profile leadership have developed opportunities to create a learning disabilities service fit for the 21st century. Four broad challenges were identified to support the development of learning disability nursing: strengthening capacity, strengthening capability, strengthening quality, and strengthening the profession. These have been addressed by a strategy of work driven forward nationally and locally and with regular reporting processes that have ensured all countries have kept the challenges firmly in view.
A number of major UK-wide initiatives have supported the vision of learning disabilities services to meet the needs of all those with learning disabilities.
Nurturing future leaders
Leaders are being identified at all levels and supported by innovative programmes to develop personal leadership abilities. For example, a two-day workshop was held for 42 people from across the UK who benefited from the opportunity to explore the development of practice, research, writing for publication and working with leading coaches.
Engagement with frontline practitioners and networking
The success of the implementation strategy has depended on active engagement with frontline practitioners to engage them with the aspirations and practical planning of the initiative. Networking has flourished, stimulated particularly by an explosion in the use of social media. The innovative case studies throughout this report demonstrate the range of work being carried out at grass roots level across the UK.
Developing the evidence base
The academic underpinning, research and the evidence base for learning disability nursing is being strengthened by the work of the UK Learning and Intellectual Disabilities Nursing Academic Network (LIDNAN). A model for collaborative working has been established which future work will ensure a robust academic and research base for the future.
UK Learning Disability Consultant Nurse Network
The UK Learning Disability Consultant Nurse Network have been instrumental in sharing ideas and have developed the Health Equalities Framework which provides an evidence based outcomes framework to reduce the impact of service users' exposure to determinants of health inequalities. It is being adapted for children and young people with learning disabilities.
Independent and voluntary sectors
Many learning disability nurses are employed in the independent and voluntary sector and the Independent Sector Collaborative has been established to ensure a high quality and sustainable workforce across all sectors.
Learning disability competence in other fields of nursing
Staff working in general health and social care settings are seeking to expand their knowledge and ability to communicate with people with learning disabilities. Initiatives across the UK are developing these skills so that people with learning disabilities receive the appropriate care.
We recognise that the job is not yet done and this report also sets out our commitment to the future agenda. A framework of priority actions and associated milestones will be developed and we will ensure that the involvement of people with learning disabilities continues to be central to our framework for delivery.
As new staffing models develop the role of the learning disability nurse will be vital to ensure safe, compassionate and competent care in whatever setting. Every learning disability nurse plays a key role in continuing to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities, their family and carers and continuing to develop learning disability nursing as a strong and vibrant profession.
Email: Scott Taylor