Mandatory learning disability and autism training debated

Two years ago, 18-year-old Oliver McGowan died after being given anti-psychotic medication against the wishes of him and his family. The teenager, had mild autism, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. His family believe his death could have been prevented if relevant training had been given to healthcare professionals.

As a result, his mother, Paula McGowan, started a petition calling for all doctors and nurses to receive advanced (tier 2) training in autism and learning disability as soon as is reasonably practicable.

On Monday, October 22nd MP Daniel Zeichner led a two-hour debate of the Government’s Petitions Committee, entitled ‘prevent avoidable deaths by making autism/learning disability training mandatory’.

MP Dr Philippa Whitford suggested: “The issue lies not so much with medical and nursing staff, who deal often with autistic people or people with learning disabilities, but with the people who do not deal with them often. It is those people—people in A&E and other hospital departments—who do not have the skills who really need training.”

MPs were keen to point out that the debate came a month after the Government’s response to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) which itself included a recommendation for mandatory basic training in, and awareness of, learning disability for health and care staff.

MP Caroline Dineage said that every recommendation in the LeDeR report had been accepted including that for mandatory training with new regulations set to be introduced by the end of 2019. One of the key elements of the recommendations was that people with learning disabilities and autism should be involved in the training.

In addition, she explained that NHS England is currently working with NHS Digital to add a ‘reasonable adjustment flag’ to digital care records to indicate the potential adjustments that people with a learning disability may require. The flag will be available to all organisations that provide care. The potential for a comparable autism flag is also being considered.

Watch the full debate here or read the transcript here

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