My professional commitment to learning disabilities nursing is long standing. It emerged from a personal insight early in my career into the vital role that learning disabilities nurses play in the lives of people with learning disabilities, their families and carers, the very complex and high-level competences they possess, and the advocacy, passion and dedication they show. I am therefore proud, and delighted, to be introducing this report of the UK Modernising Learning Disabilities Nursing Review on behalf of my fellow government chief nursing officers.
The role and profile of learning disabilities nursing has changed significantly over the last three decades. The wholesale shift from institutionalised care to a social model of provision based on independence, inclusion and empowerment has improved significantly the lives of people with learning disabilities, but has served to reduce demand for learning disabilities nursing as a specialism. As a result, the learning disabilities nursing workforce today is smaller and more widely distributed across the health and social care sector than ever before; and while some occupy specialist learning disabilities nursing roles, many others have more generic care or managerial roles.
This has resulted in a lack of focus and direction for learning disabilities nursing, fragmentation of the learning disabilities nursing community and, potentially, a loss of core nursing and specialist learning disabilities nursing skills to the system at a time when demand (which is already growing) is likely to increase. More and more children born with learning disabilities are now surviving into adolescence, adulthood and into older age, with the complex range of medical and health problems that brings: they require specialist learning disabilities nursing support across the lifespan.
In initiating the review, the UK chief nursing officers sought to bring this issue to the forefront for people with learning disabilities, their families and carers, policy-makers, commissioners, services, professional leaders and the learning disabilities workforce so that together we can prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead. At the same time, we wanted to remind everyone of the very proud tradition that underpins learning disabilities nursing and of the importance of their contribution and commitment in a changing world.
The four countries are now invited to consider the report's recommendations and progress then as appropriate within their own contexts.
Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government
Email: John McKain