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It’s World Autism Acceptance Week – an annual celebration that aims to help create a society that works for autistic people. We know that people with a learning disability and autistic people face some of the worst health inequalities, and to combat this we need a committed, resilient, and compassionate workforce to deliver high quality, person-centred care and support.
Children, young people and adults with a learning disability or who are autistic have the right to the same opportunities as anyone else, and the NHS Long Term Plan states that across the health service we will do more to ensure that all these individuals can live happier, healthier and longer lives.
Our workforce is our greatest asset; we need greater alignment, collaboration, and support between partners to further understand our current workforce, their training requirements, future demand, and supply.
We want to ensure all people working across the NHS – from accident and emergency departments to cancer, diabetes and respiratory services – have a good understanding of the broader needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people, and can implement the reasonable adjustments needed.
Alongside this, we need a more specialist and skilled workforce who can provide extra support where required, including in people’s homes, in community settings or in inpatient services if necessary.
We know that when reasonable adjustments are made and person-centred approaches are taken, the experiences for autistic people and people with a learning disability are more positive.
We must continue to build on work to date, progress at pace and evolve our plans and actions to attract, train, retain and develop an integrated, cross sector and sustainable workforce fit for the future.
Looking forward, we have six key objectives for how we will support our workforce to deliver high quality care and support for autistic people and people with a learning disability:
Objective 1: To improve access to and the quality of care for people with a learning disability and autistic people through developing our health workforce: improving knowledge of learning disability and autism, ensuring reasonably adjusted care; tackling health inequalities
Objective 2: To grow and develop the workforce skills and capacity in autism diagnostic pathways for children, young people, and adults
Objective 3: To grow the community mental health, learning disability and autism workforce’s capacity and skills to ensure the best quality care for people with a learning disability and autistic people
Objective 4: To grow the inpatient mental health workforce’s skills and capability to provide high-quality care to people with a learning disability and autistic people
Objective 5: Attracting, developing and retaining our workforce to care and support autistic people and people with a learning disability
Objective 6: To improve the quality, access, completion and reporting of workforce data across health and care systems
There is work underway to address some of these areas, such as the children and young people’s key worker pilots. Also to highlight the Oliver McGowan Mandatory training pilot currently being delivered by Health Education England and Skills for Care , the commissioning for wellbeing qualification, competency frameworks for supporting and caring for autistic people and people with a learning disability , STOMP/STAMP and ensuring we create opportunities to employ more people with a learning disability, autistic people and family/parent/carers through supported internships and an employment pledge. You can also access autism awareness and learning disability awareness training now.
To find out more and to stay connected to our work please join our Learning Disability and Autism Workforce FutureNHS page here.