The Minister of Care Caroline Dinenage has extended the consultation period on proposals to enforce mandatory learning disability and autism training.
The government’s consultation, which opened on February 13, has received over 1,500 responses, including from healthcare professionals, charities, councils and universities.
Nearly half were received in the first week, but due to continued high interest the consultation will now stay open April 26 to give even more people time to share their feedback on the proposals, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Up to 2.8 million health and social care staff, from consultants to porters, who regularly have contact with patients or service users could be legally required to undertake special learning disability or autism training, under the proposals.
The Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage commented on the extension:“It is clear we need to do better for autistic people and those with learning disabilities. Our plans to introduce mandatory training for all relevant health and care staff will help to ensure they receive the safe, compassionate and informed care that they are entitled to and ensure our amazing workforce are confident to do their absolute best.
“This training could save lives so it’s absolutely essential that we get it right. We have had a fantastic response so far to our consultation but I want to leave no stone unturned and so I’ve asked to extend it to allow more time for people to have their say. If this affects you, please don’t delay – I want to hear from as many people as possible.”
The plans will help address the stark difference in life expectancy between those with a learning disability and those without. Currently, the life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 18 years lower than those without, with a 14-year gap for men. Autistic people also face documented barriers to accessing healthcare.
Campaigner Paula McGowan said: “We brought our teenage son Oliver McGowan to hospital with absence type seizures. Because Oliver was autistic with a very mild learning disability his voice was not heard, which I believe resulted in his premature and preventable death.
“I believe that if the medics had received mandatory training in autism and learning disability awareness, they would have known how to make reasonable adjustments.”