People with learning difficulties ‘failed’ by the system, finds new report

People with learning difficulties are still being failed by England’s health system, according to new research.

report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) finds that of the one million adults and children with learning disabilities in England, many are still unable to receive the care and support they need, because of issues with staffing, services and strategy.

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It comes five years on from the scandal of Winterbourne View, scandal, exposed by the Panorama programme, shocked the nation. It led to the Government pledge to move all people with learning disabilities and/or autism inappropriately placed in such institutions into community care.  by June this year. The public funded hospital has been shut down as a result of the abuse that took place​. 

The report reads: “The number of people in inpatient facilities actually increased over 2015, showing a revolving door of admissions and discharges; a system which is failing thousands of people.”

While learning disability nurses are the backbone of learning disability services, states the RCN, the past six years has seen a demise in the workforce by a third – a total of 1,700 posts, one third of which were senior nursing posts.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: “People with learning disabilities are still being badly let down. The pace of change has been disappointingly slow, with too many people stuck in institutions when they should be near their families in more appropriate community settings. The message we’re getting from our members is that when it comes to learning disability services, things have got worse, not better. This is not what was promised after Winterbourne View.”

Training places have also been slashed, falling by 30 per cent in the last decade. There are now fewer learning disability nursing students in training than ever before, and the report warns that the move to student loans for nursing courses could impact even further on the creation of a new generation of learning disability nurses.


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