The House of Lords has passed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which could see learning disability and autism training become mandatory for healthcare staff.

The standardised training package would ensure staff working in health and social care receive learning disability and autism training at the right level for their role.

The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism is being co-produced and delivered by autistic people, people with a learning disability and family carers, and coordinated by Health Education England and Skills for Care.

"A wonderful signal to campaigners"

The amendment was put forward by Baroness Sheila Hollins and received support from the Bill team, Department of Health and Social Care officials, and the learning disability charity Mencap.

Baroness Hollins said the amendment would “put in statute a policy that the Government have committed to undertake” by creating “a code of practice that would consult on and set out how training will be scaled up across the country.”

The new law also requires the Secretary of State to consult people with lived experience and regularly revise the policy in light of outcomes, which Baroness Hollins says would be advantageous compared to simply amending the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

“Accepting the amendment would be a wonderful signal to campaigners…that the Government’s promises will be honoured sooner rather than later,” she said.

The revised Bill will now return to the House of Commons for amendments to be considered, and if passed, the training programme will become law.

The Oliver McGowan training programme

The training will be named after Oliver McGowan, an 18-year-old boy who had a learning disability, autism, focal partial epilepsy and mild hemiplegia.

Oliver died in November 2016 after he was given antipsychotic medication even though he and his family warned it could be harmful to him.

After Oliver’s death, his parents Paula and Tom began campaigning for healthcare professionals to receive proper training to ensure they have a better understanding of autistic and learning disabled people’s needs.

Healthcare professionals rarely have the skills required to make reasonable adjustments

Paula said when she realised that the doctors and nurses caring for her son (and others like him) did not have the appropriate skills to make reasonable adjustments, were not aware of diagnostic overshadowing and did know how to adapt their communication to meet individual needs, she knew she had to do something in Oliver’s name.

“I strongly believed that this had to be mandatory standardised training in autism and learning disability awareness for all Health and Social Care Staff,” she said.

Paula started a parliamentary petition that received more than 100,000 signatures, and as a result the Government committed to developing the training package in a report titled ‘Right to be heard’.

Miss McGowan told Nursing Times she felt “relief” after hearing the amendment had been passed in the House of Lords, and said she could now see “Oliver's legacy is coming to fruition”.