Mencap is calling for more government investment in speciality healthcare staff, like learning disability nurses, after a recently published Health and Social Care Committee report highlighted that there are shortages in nearly every speciality.

While data from UCAS has revealed that a record number of 18-year-old students applied to study nursing in 2021, Mencap say that without specially trained nurses, at risk groups, like people with learning disabilities, will continue to face barriers to accessing healthcare.

There are currently 93,000 vacancies for NHS positions

As Jackie O'Sullivan, Executive Director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at Mencap, explains: “It’s brilliant that the amazing work of NHS staff during the pandemic has inspired a new generation of students to enter the health sector, and what we need to see now is a focus on training speciality healthcare staff.

“A recent Health and Social Care Committee report highlighted there are shortages in nearly every specialty - we know this includes a huge shortage of learning disability nurses and the Government must commit more investment in training and retaining staff.”

There are currently 93,000 vacancies for NHS positions, and with roughly 6 million people waiting for routine operations and treatment, the report highlights that unless the government turns its attention to recruiting new staff and retaining the current workforce, patient safety will be at risk.

As people with learning disabilities are more likely to die avoidably and at a far younger age than the general population, O’Sullivan says that learning disability nurses are vital to “ensuring people with a learning disability get the healthcare support they need.”

Proper workforce planning vital for social care

The Committee’s concerns also extend to the social care workforce, which at present has roughly 105,000 vacancies and a turnover rate of 38 percent, compared to 28 percent of nurses working in healthcare.

To tackle this, Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Mencap, said the government must implement a workforce plan so that carers can carry on doing the vital work they do.

He said: “While social care workers are already going above and beyond to ensure people with a learning disability get the support they have a right to, there are huge staff shortages and they are trying to do this in a sector under immense pressure.

“The workforce, and the people they support, need the Government to take urgent action by developing a comprehensive workforce plan that properly recognises the highly-skilled role that the care workforce provides and backing this up with sufficient additional funding to enable this to take place. This will provide the vital bedrock on which people with a learning disability can receive the high-quality support they need and deserve.”