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With a 40 per cent drop in specialist nurses since 2010, the Royal College of Nursing is urging for urgent investment to attract more applicants into learning disability nursing.
Of growing concern, a recent survey of higher education institutions in England found that almost half have discussed discontinuing their learning disability nursing programmes this September, with a current lack of students and the potential of fewer students in the next few years likely to have an ongoing effect on the existing staff shortages across the workforce.
The number of applicants to learning disability nursing degree courses has fallen in line with the removal of funding for nursing education, a decision that the RCN says makes programmes less financially viable to run.
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN director of Nursing, Policy and Practice, said: “The nursing shortage in England is harming some of the most vulnerable members of society. Those with learning disabilities already face a lower life expectancy and poorer health outcomes than the general population, and a lack of specialist knowledge will make matters worse. Without the specialist support provided by registered nurses, more patients may end up in institutions, away from their families and friends and shut off from society – this bleak Victorian image is not what care should look like in the 21st century.”
Discussing Health Education England’s promise of extra funding to train 200 nursing associates, as well as the government’s offer of £10,000 golden hellos to postgraduate students in specific hard-to-recruit disciplines, Kinnair added: “Funding for extra nursing associates is too little too late. Ministers have known about the steady drop in applications for the best part of a decade, and have allowed a crisis to develop in learning disability care.”
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