Achieving Health for All?

Learning Disabilities Nursing

Professor Ruth Northway OBE is Professor of Learning Disability Nursing at USW.

"Each year International Nurses Day is a chance to celebrate the contribution that nurses around the world make to individuals, communities and populations.

"This year the International Council for Nurses has adopted as their theme ‘Health for All’ – an aim that I suspect few would argue against but, in reality, we are far away from achieving.

"This year also marks 40 years since I started my career as a learning disability nurse and as a profession, we are celebrating 100 years since the first learning disability nurse was registered with the (then) General Nursing Council.

"Over my career I have seen many changes in the way in which care and support are provided for people with learning disabilities.

"However, we have also seen an increasing evidence base that tells us that people with learning disabilities experience many inequalities and inequities in terms of their health.

"These include failure to recognise their health needs, access to timely and appropriate healthcare, and a failure to make reasonable adjustments to promote equality of access.

"The result of such omissions can lead to a reduced quality of life as well as premature and avoidable deaths,

"Nurses have the potential to make a significant difference to this situation.

"Here at the University of South Wales I am pleased to say that people with learning disabilities play a key role in the education of all our undergraduate nursing students which ever field of practice they have chosen. For example, members of our Teaching and Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) participate in teaching sessions within our clinical simulation suite.

"However, to make sure that we continue to advance nursing care and support it is also essential that we extend our knowledge through undertaking research.

"In this context the University of South Wales is seeking to improve the health and well-being of people with learning disabilities through undertaking research.

"For example we are supporting their participation in research (Ruth Northway), exploring their experiences of annual health checks (Dawn Cavanagh), understanding the role of the community learning disability nurse in liaising with secondary care (Stacey Rees) and end-of-life care (Stuart Todd).

"Our aim is that our research will inform practice and support all nurses to ensure that good quality health for all is a reality for people with learning disabilities."

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