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Appointment of first doctor specialising in profound and multiple learning disabilities promised for this year

I think (know) that we have said this before: They do things differently in the Netherlands (and usually it seems for the better).

According to this recent article in the Guardian the first doctor specialising in profound and multiple learning disabilities is due to be appointed in the UK later this year, following a Dutch precedent.

Read the article. It is not very long and contains some jaw-dropping observations on specialised care in the UK.

Regrettably those observations come as no surprise, but can still shock:

  • “GPs lack confidence with learning-disabled patients, and most have had less than a day of training”. (I am reminded that 25 years ago my own GP commented that my  newly-diagnosed son  was the first autistic person he had ever met.)
  • For at least three years, we have written on our social media, and in our Resnews newsletter, about the crisis in the recruitment, training and retention of Learning Disability Nurses. For details, try searching our website – or the news archive of  RCN website.
  • I spent last year attending PHE consultations on how to improve the quality and length of the lives of people with a learning disability. Your heart leaps (slightly) when you learn subsequently that such improvements have been incorporated as key objectives into the newly-announced NHS Long Term Plan. And then you read this article…

Note that there are criticisms of the concept of specialist PNLD doctors, and of their effectiveness, especially if  they were not  to be accorded adequate professional status and clinical authority. And as ever in current economic circumstances, there are worries about cost effectiveness, given the probable cost of specialised training, and the existence of alternative models of care centred on Learning Disability Nurses.

I just wonder if the viability of the concept will ever be proved from available evidence, if only one such such clinician is ever appointed.