The Paul Ridd Learning Disability Awareness Training programme will be rolled out to all NHS healthcare staff in Wales, the Welsh government has announced.

The training is designed to improve knowledge and raise awareness of the issues that people with a learning disability face when accessing healthcare services.

It is named after Paul Ridd, a man with a learning disability who died in 2009 after being admitted to hospital with a perforated bowel, which required emergency major surgery.

On completion of the operation, Paul spent 21 days in intensive care where he was heavily sedated. Paul’s family say during this time, he wasn’t properly observed, he didn’t receive the right treatment, and his disabilities were not properly considered.

There was no learning disability training for healthcare staff when Paul died, and as a result, the Ombudsman recommended that Swansea Bay University Health Board drew up a comprehensive programme of learning disability awareness training for key nursing and clinical staff. Now, more than a decade later, the training is finally coming into effect.

The Welsh government will now look into rolling out the training to social care staff

The first phase of the Foundation Level training for all healthcare staff has already begun via an online platform, with the second and third level due to begin in the coming months.

The second ‘enhanced level’ is for staff whose roles bring them into regular contact with people with a learning disability, and the third level is for those who specialise in working with people with a learning disability.

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Everyone has the right to access health care services and it’s important as a government we ensure that no one faces any obstacles that, with a little thought and planning, can be removed.”

She added that the government will now “explore options for rolling out this important training to social care staff across Wales.”

More learning disability consultant nurses needed

The news comes following the publication of a paper by RCN Wales, highlighting the important role of the learning disability nurse in supporting people with learning disabilities.

The paper highlights that women with learning disabilities die on average 18 years youngers women in the general population, while the life expectancy of a man with a learning disability is 14 years shorter.

With these findings in mind, the RCN are urging the Welsh government to boost the number of learning disability consultant nurses across the country.

Helen Whyley RCN Wales Director said: “Learning Disability Nurses work with some of the most vulnerable, complex, isolated individuals in our society. People with a Learning Disability often present to services with a range of physical, psychological and social difficulties which need specialist, skilled, compassionate healthcare. Failure to properly invest in learning disability nursing will further increase the health inequalities these individuals already experience.

"The role of learning disability nursing is crucial to ensure that people with a learning disability are provided with parity of esteem in all aspects of healthcare and to prevent avoidable deaths. The role of the learning disability nurse should be celebrated and valued for the compassionate highly skilled role it is.”