A learning disability and autism training programme for healthcare staff, named after Oliver McGowan, has officially launched.
The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism is designed to teach healthcare staff how to provide appropriate care for learning disabled and autistic people.
Oliver was an 18-year-old boy who died in 2016 after being given antipsychotic medication even though he and his family warned it could be harmful to him.
Oliver had a learning disability, autism, focal partial epilepsy and mild hemiplegia. His parents, Paula and Tom, say his death could have been avoided if healthcare staff were better informed about how to care for neurodivergent and disabled individuals.
More than 8,000 healthcare staff and trialled the training so far
The launch of the programme follows a long campaign launched by Paula following Oliver’s death. The innovative training has been developed with expertise by people with a learning disability and autistic people as well as their families and carers.
It provides staff with the right information to make reasonable adjustments as well as challenging their preconceptions of autism and learning disabilities.
Paula hopes the training will ensure that care and support are better tailored to people’s individual needs, leading to better interactions and outcomes and fewer incidents of inequality and avoidable deaths.
Over the last two years, 8,300 health and care staff across England trialled the training. Participants said the training improved their knowledge, skills and communication with autistic people and people with a learning disability.
Following the programme success, the training will now be mandatory for all regulated CQC registered service providers.
“There is more work to be done, but the journey has now started”
Paula McGowan OBE said: “I take comfort in knowing that the death of my teenage son Oliver has resulted in a positive change as a direct consequence, something which will resonate with many and is deeply meaningful to me.
“I have been humbled to observe all health and care colleagues working collaboratively to strive for this change. There is more work to be done, but the journey has now started, and I truly believe we are on the right trajectory to achieve better health and care outcomes for neurodivergent people.”
Mark Radford, Chief Nurse at Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer (England) said: “Paula McGowan has tirelessly campaigned to ensure that Oliver’s legacy is that all health and care staff receive this critical training. Paula and many others have helped with the development of the training from the beginning.
“Making Oliver’s training mandatory will ensure that the skills and expertise needed to provide the best care for people with a learning disability and autistic people is available right across health and care.”
The training course is delivered in two parts
The course is delivered in two parts, the structure of which varies slightly depending on your role.
Tier 1 has been designed for staff who need general awareness of the support autistic people or people with a learning disability may need, while Tier 2 is for people who provide direct care and support for autistic people or people with a learning disability.
Those undertaking Tier 1 training will start by completing an e-learning course which takes around 90 minutes. They will then finish their training by attending a one hour online interactive session.
Tier 2 training begins in the same way with a 90-minute e-learning course, but staff must then attend a one-day face-to-face training session. These sessions will begin taking place in 2023.
Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “What happened to Oliver was a tragedy – this training is a vital next step to address existing health inequalities for autistic people and people with a learning disability, providing them with the right care and support in health and care settings.”