NMC welcomes learning disability and autism training proposals

17 April 2019

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has today welcomed the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation focussing on the training of health and care professionals to better support people living with learning disability and autism.

Responding to the consultation; the NMC has highlighted the important need for all health and care professionals to be given regular, ongoing learning disability and autism training.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said:

"People with a learning disability and autistic people, their families and carers, have the same right as anyone else to receive safe and effective health and care.

"Instead; the shameful reality is people with a learning disability die, on average, 14 to 18 years sooner than the general population. There are too many heart-breaking stories where the individual needs of people in the most vulnerable of circumstances have not been recognised, listened to, acted on or properly supported.

"Much needs to be done to improve this situation. From our work at the NMC, we know the vital difference that health and care professionals make to the lives of people with learning disabilities and autistic people when they are equipped with the right skills and training.

"Through our own programme to reform nursing and midwifery education, we are already working to ensure that professionals across all health and care settings have the knowledge and understanding to support people with learning disabilities and autistic people to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

"The Department has recently extended the consultation period to 26 April 2019 and I hope as many people as possible will take this opportunity to make their views known about these important proposals."

In the response to the consultation, the NMC has set out how it has incorporated a stronger focus on learning disability and autism, in the training of all students before they qualify as nurses.

It has also recommended the same focus in the pre-registration education and training of all regulated professionals.

The regulator's response acknowledges there can be a fatal gap in the knowledge of health and care professionals when it comes to the needs of people with learning disabilities and autism.

The NMC has recommended several changes and improvements, including:

  • Ongoing learning and regular training opportunities, rather than isolated sessions – with the government considering whether there should be protected learning time.
  • Training needs to be suitable for the variety of settings within which people on the NMC’s register work – including care homes, schools and prisons in addition to hospitals and GP surgeries.
  • Making sure steps are taken to ensure co-production and co-delivery with people who have learning disabilities and/or autism is at the heart of the training.
  • Training to address and reduce risks associated with professionals seeing the disability before the person, assuming someone’s behaviour or symptoms are a part of their disability rather than an underlying health condition.
  • Ensuring all health and social care professionals are provided with training, no matter their field of practice, to better equip them with skills and knowledge required.

The NMC’s response is a result of the Department of Health & Social Care’s consultation, which opened in February and will now close on 26 April 2019.


Notes for editors

  1. The NMC’s full response can be viewed here.
  2. There are around 690,000 nurses, midwives and nursing associates on the NMC register, who can practise in the UK.
  3. For media enquiries, please contact NMC press office on 020 7681 5884 or email media@nmc-uk.org.
  4. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the independent professional regulator for nurses and midwives in the UK. We exist to protect the public. We do this by maintaining the register of qualified nurses and midwives and setting standards of education, training, conduct and performance. We make sure that nurses and midwives keep their skills and knowledge up to date through a regular revalidation process. If concerns are raised about the standards of a registered nurse or midwife, we have a duty to investigate and, where necessary, take action to protect the public.