“Alarming” collapse of learning disability nursing warns RCN

2 mins read

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Tags: royal college nursing, learning disability nurse, learning disability, annual health checks, health services

The number of learning disability nurses has collapsed to “alarmingly low levels”, according to latest data from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

A learning disability nurse helps children and adults with a learning disability and their families access health care. They coordinate referrals and health checks and provide extra support to people attending A&E or admitted to hospital wards. The NHS developed the learning disability nurse specialism to tackle poorer health and preventable deaths in people with learning disabilities.

But new data shows the number of learning disability nurses has fallen by 44%, from 5,553 in 2009 to 3,095 in 2024. UCAS data seen by the RCN also shows consistently low admission on learning disability nursing courses. Only 2% of all nursing course acceptances are for learning disability courses. Rates of acceptance are particularly low in the South East, South West and East of England

The RCN told Learning Disability Today that there were now large sections areas of the country facing a future without specialist learning disability nurse support.

The RCN has called on the next government to recruit enough learning disability nurses to ensure people with learning disabilities can access the health care they need.