The University of East Anglia (UEA) has announced it will no longer be accepting applicants for its learning disability nursing programme.

The university says those who are still studying will be able to finish the course, but the programme will cease once these students have completed their degrees.

UEA say they were forced to make the difficult decision due to a lack of applicants, which has been on a downward trajectory for the last few years.

The number of learning disability nurses has “flatlined”

The news comes following a report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which warned that the lives of learning disability patients are being put at risk because the number of specialist nurses who care for them has flatlined.

The RCN said there has been a “steep decline” in the number of student applications onto pre-registration nursing courses in England, with the number of qualified LD nurses falling from around 5,000 in 2009 to 3,000 in 2016.

In the last three years, the number of learning disability nurses in England rose by just 22. The college has since urged the government to bolster its efforts to address the shortage.

Jonathan Beebee, RCN professional lead for learning disability nursing, said it is “disappointing” to hear that UEA were forced to scrap the course.

He told Nursing Times that a national recruitment campaign is needed to "promote what learning disability nurses do and encourage more people into the profession".

UEA are actively pursuing other opportunities to ensure workforce is well-equipped

Professor Sally Hardy, dean of health sciences at the UEA, said the university is “actively pursuing other routes and opportunities” to ensure the health and social care workforce is “equipped with the necessary skills to expertly care for people with learning disabilities and their families.”

She added: “We remain committed and passionate about ensuring people with a learning disability and their carers get the right support and live valued lives and we will be pursuing other strategies to educate and inform professionals and carers of how best to meet needs.”