Cuts put people with a learning disability at risk, say nurses
Wednesday 16 May 2012
Mencap is concerned that progress that has been made in healthcare may be undone by cuts to services
Cuts to services are hitting some of the most vulnerable people in society, according to a new survey published today (Wednesday 16 May) by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The survey of almost 500 learning disability nurses found that nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents have seen cuts to services in the past year, and of those, 73% have real concerns about the safety of their patients. They fear that people with a learning disability could be missing out altogether or face a reduced service.
The survey also found that, in the past year, over half of nurses have seen a decrease in the range of NHS services offered to people with a learning disability. Just over half of nurses surveyed said the area in which they worked offered a patient passport, while personal care packages or person-centred plans are only being carried out in around three quarters of areas.
The findings, released at the RCN’s annual congress, come on top of news that over 60,000 jobs are to be lost across the NHS. Amid these reductions in staffing levels, around three quarters of nurses said their caseload had increased and they were dealing with increasingly complex health needs.
The RCN has called for urgent investment in learning disability services. This includes an acute learning disability nurse in every hospital, a guarantee that one-to-one specialist learning disability nursing is given to all those who need it, and training and development opportunities for all learning disability nurses. The RCN is also calling on people to sign its pledge to show their support for learning disability nurses.
Dan Scorer, Mencap’s senior campaigns and policy manager said: “We are extremely concerned to see this evidence from the front line of the negative impact that cuts to services are having on patients with a learning disability.
“Mencap has campaigned for many years to highlight the poor care that people with a learning disability have received in the NHS. We have seen some improvements, and where learning disability nurses are in post, they have made a positive difference to the experiences of people with a learning disability and their carers.
“Therefore it is deeply worrying to see that any progress that has been made may be undone by cuts to services. The government needs to stand by its commitment to improve care for people with a disability and protect the frontline services they rely on.”