Next steps for NHS learning disability jobs drive

New guidance will help health and care employers job create employment opportunities

Organisations across the health service in England are today (23 September) being provided with tools to help them meet a challenge to recruit people with learning disabilities.

NHS Learning Disability Employment Programme – a joint programme between NHS England and NHS Employers – was launched during Learning Disability Week in June, with more than 50 major employers registering their interest so far.

The programme is the next step in a commitment made in the NHS Five Year Forward View to make NHS workforces more representative of the local communities they serve. It takes the form of a new national network providing advice, ideas and impetus to all NHS organisations – from local hospital trusts to national bodies – to remove barriers and take steps to accelerate employment of people with learning disabilities in the NHS.

Launching at an NHS Employers conference on diversity and inclusion, the new resources both outline how to open up meaningful jobs to people with learning disabilities, as well as highlighting the benefits to employers of doing so, including savings associated with reduced employee turnover, accessing a wider pool of talent and experience, and creating a more inclusive and accessible organisation.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “The NHS doesn’t just have a duty to those who want to work for it to be a good and inclusive employer, it has a duty to patients and to the public to ensure that it takes advantage of the broadest range of skills and experience possible to improve care for all.

“We know that the will exists in lots of NHS organisations; these resources show them the way to get on, do it, and show others that they can and should be doing this too.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “We are excited to be working on this project with NHS England and both our organisations are committed to improving the quality of working life in the NHS. The workplace itself can do a huge amount to help remove stigma around learning difficulties and help all members of our community to play their full part. Small adjustments are often all it takes and the most effective changes can be attitudinal ones.

“The NHS has some of the country’s best employers for supporting colleagues with learning disabilities, so we will use NHS Learning Disability Employment to help spread this best practice throughout the health service. This will also help the NHS to recruit new staff, who will feel valued in their roles and enrich our workplaces.”

Practical advice covered by the guidance includes:

  • communicating better, including using plain English and avoiding jargon;
  • improving training for staff, including making use of resources from expert outside organisations;
  • making reasonable adjustments and providing tailored enabling support, including taking advantage of specific government schemes such as Access to Work;
  • working with local agencies and groups on wider local programmes to tackle employment inequalities, including councils, Jobcentre Plus, local enterprise partnerships and voluntary groups, and;
  • implementing new models of working, such as job carving, supported employment and co-working.

Backing the programme, Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt MP, said: “It’s absolutely right that we have a workforce that reflects the diverse range of people our health service cares for. Creating more opportunities for people with learning disabilities will help them to lead the lives they want to and their experience will help us shape the services we provide to others.”

Since its launch the programme has already identified employers which are leading the way in this area, as well as employers who are making a commitment to get started, including Whittington Health.

Steve Hitchins, chairman of Whittington Health, said: “This is an initiative that we definitely want to sign up to. An inclusive workforce is absolutely essential to delivering our vision of being an outstanding provider of high quality joined up healthcare to local people. It is really inspiring to know that many NHS organisations have already done a lot to make sure that people with learning disabilities are able to make a valuable contribution as part of their workforce. We are going to get started on this and hope that in future others will also look to us for inspiration.”

To support the rollout of the tools and guidance, NHS England will be running three events across the country to provide practical training, help build networks and give local health and care employers advice.  They will be held in:

Providers and CCGs will be invited to attend alongside local voluntary, community and social organisations, local authorities and Jobcentre Plus representatives.  The sessions will aim to secure commitments from organisations to make changes and employ more people with learning disabilities, as well as to build relationships and links allowing NHS organisations to tap into existing local resources.


  1. Michael Andrews says:

    Judging by the lack of acknowledgement of the comment I posted yesterday I question whether NHS England are really committed to implementing this. I suspect it will be another publicity stunt that will be forgotten over the coming months. The existing laws should be sufficient for ensuring disabled people are properly supported in the workplace. The problem is they are not enforced. My last employer, the NHS should have been made accountable for their actions but were not.

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comments.

      We aim to process comments as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hours of receiving the comment. Once comments have been published we notify the team responsible for the news item and ask that any replies are provided as quickly as possible.

      More information can be found within our comments moderation policy.

      I can confirm that your comments have been passed on and any response will be posted online once received.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  2. Jean Cammack says:

    Fact find question:

    Please can you advise as to whether there is a cost for the workshop or is this free and how will the booking system be advertised.
    Thank you

  3. Michael Andrews says:

    I welcome the initiative however it has come far too late for me as I was made redundant from Heart of England NHS Trust because they decided they no longer wanted to support my autism. I found their attitude offensive and they made it clear on letter headed paper their contempt for people like myself with ASD. It was clear they did not want me working in their organisation. All I wanted was flexible working when being redeployed which ironically is recommended by the NHS website. The NHS need to practice what they preach. The Trusts written condemnation of people like myself boarders on hate and it was demonstrated by their bullying behaviour. Attitudes need to change. I feel there is still a long way to go before I will ever be welcome in the NHS. Also, the guideline set by the TUC on making disabled people redundant were not adhered to. It was quite clear they wanted to get rid of me.