It is estimated there are around 1.1 million people living with a learning disability in England. However, the number recorded in health and welfare systems is much lower.
Evidence shows that they are likely to have poorer physical and mental health, on average dying 15-20 years earlier than their peers.
In her keynote speech to Expo 2017, the Chief Nursing Officer for England outlined the integral role nurses will play in delivering the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, treating more complex care needs, delivering mental services in the community and closer to home. They will be key to transforming existing services, as well as leading innovative new services, across a wide range of conditions and care settings.
She also emphasised the crucial role nurses have in ensuring people with learning disabilities get the care they need, improving health and outcomes and supporting people to lead independent lives as far as possible.
NHS England is already collaborating on a number of support measures, including improving the number and quality of annual health checks and reducing unwarranted variation.
Some examples include
NHS England South Transforming Care programme – Through the programme James, aged 58, from North Somerset has received the care and support needed to move into his own home which has been designed around his needs and wishes.
James has moderate learning difficulties requiring a high level of supportive care and assistance with his daily routine. Previously, his care had been provided at a hospital, some distance from home. However, the programme has enabled him to develop the skills and independence to better look after himself.
Leading Change Adding Value: Smoking in Mental Health Programme – Around 15.5% of adults in England smoke. However, inequality remains and smoking prevalence is 40.5% in adults with a serious mental illness and can be up to 70% among patients in psychiatric units. This equates to one in three of all cigarettes smoked are smoked by people with a mental health condition.
Mental Health nurses are leading work to ensure that we improve our understanding of the inequalities and biases people with mental health conditions face if they want to give up smoking and assess where good practice is taking place to learn from each other. This is crucial if we are to narrow the gaps and have an impact on premature deaths. Eight mental health trusts are now working together on a number of improvement initiatives to improve their compliance with the NICE Guidance on smoking cessation.
Leading STOMP (stop the over- medication of people with a learning disability or autism) campaign – Every day up to 35,000 with a learning disability take a prescribed psychotropic, but don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition. This can lead to significant side-effects impacting on the quality of life. Now, one year into the campaign, over 100 social care organisations have signed up, supporting over 40,000 people, all pledging to transform care for people with a learning disability, autism or both.
Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, explained: “Incredible work is already taking place helping reduce existing but avoidable health inequalities across the country.
“In nursing we are in a hugely responsible and privileged position, leading the way and playing a vital role in improving the lives of people living with a mental health condition or learning disability.”
On the critical role of mental health nurses, Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, added: “There has never been a more important or rewarding time to be a mental health nurse. Delivering the far reaching Five Year Forward View for mental health entails creating and leading new services as well as transforming existing ones which will deliver better care to a million additional people by 2021.
“The opportunities for nurses to transform care are challenging but real. Addressing need across the age range, in primary care through to highly specialised care in hospitals, working in partnership with others and drawing upon the extensive evidence base for different conditions, will mean no two careers need be the same.”
This is part of Leading Change, Adding Value; a framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff positions all staff as leaders individually, or as part of a team, looking at what needs to change or could be changed to improve services, experiences and outcomes for patients by reducing unwarranted variation – wherever they work, whatever their role.
The CNO announced that 40 of the best and brightest graduates are due to begin their studies this month, starting their career in nursing after joining forces with Edge Hill University, Kings College London and the University of Hertfordshire.The new fast track postgraduate programme was launched in March this year as part of Next Steps plan for the NHS and aims to attract high achieving graduates into a career in nursing, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.
Professor Cummings added: “I would like to warmly welcome our newest students to our profession and wish them the very best in their studies and future career. It is an exciting time to be a nurse, specialising in learning disability or mental health, offering many opportunities and making a real difference to the lives of the people we care for.”