Home Department of Health & Social Care ‘Lightbulb Moment’ for health and care staff after receiving learning disability and autism training

‘Lightbulb Moment’ for health and care staff after receiving learning disability and autism training

by Lisa Carr

Health and care staff told the Care Minister, Gillian Keegan, campaigners Tom and Paula McGowan OBE and crossbench peer Baroness Sheila Hollins about the ‘lightbulb moment’ of realisation they had after participating in early trials of learning disability and autism training.

The Minister for Care and Mental Health held a roundtable with health and care staff at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London to discuss progress in the development of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on learning disabilities and autism.

Attendees spoke positively about the training, saying it tackled unconscious biases and was useful in understanding how to better treat patients with learning disabilities and autism. They noted that hearing from people with lived experiences and their family members made the training stand out compared with other training they had received. 

In 2019 the government committed to develop a standardised training package, coordinated by Health Education England (HEE) and Skills for Care.

Minister for Care and Mental Health Gillian Keegan said:

“People in health and care will come across people with learning disabilities and autistic people most days. This training will give our workforce the confidence to give the right care and support to those with additional needs.

“The training is co-delivered and co-designed by people with lived experiences and already 8,000 people have taken part in our pilots.

“Hearing from those who have been through the training was fantastic, and many called it life-changing. I could feel the energy and enthusiasm and know that the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training is making a real difference.”

The training is named after Oliver McGowan, who died in 2016 after being given antipsychotic drugs by hospital staff. His mother Paula successfully launched a campaign to make training on treating patients with learning disabilities and autism mandatory for all health and care staff, and was presented with an OBE by HRH The Duke of Cambridge on Wednesday 4 May for her campaign. 

Paula McGowan OBE said:

“Receiving the OBE from Prince William was an honour and a privilege. This is for Oliver – OBE stands for ‘Oliver behind everything’. Prince William is wonderful and I told him it was his wonderful grandmother who signed the Royal Assent for the legislation which will make Oliver’s training mandatory.

“Baroness Dinenage, Baroness Hollins and the wonderful minister Gillian Keegan have been instrumental in getting us here. Minister Keegan listens, she hears and she acts.

“Hearing from clinicians who have taken part in the training was wonderful. They were telling us about all they had taken from the training and how impactful it was. This was done with our neurodiverse community, co-designed and co-delivered by those with lived experience.

“Conversations have now opened about neurodiversity and they feel enabled to stand up and say when things are not right. We have got to work together to change the culture and hear their voices.” 

The final evaluation report on the training trials will be released by HEE later this month. The Department of Health and Social Care will use the evaluation to inform a wider rollout of the training.

Baroness Sheila Hollins said:

“It feels like my life’s work is finally coming to fruition. The fact that there is now recognition and we have mandated the training to make sure it continues and carries on is validation of what we have been trying to do. One person cannot change the culture but working together we can.

“It was lovely to hear the recognition of unconscious bias and as people said after the training, they did not know what they did not know. I am very encouraged.”

Senior Responsible Officer for Health Education England, Philippa Spicer said:

“It was powerful to hear the experiences of staff who had attended the pilot training. The positive impact it had on their understanding of supporting people with learning disabilities and autistic people, and how it changed their day to day work, was great to hear 

“It is incredibly important because we want to be able to roll out this training for all health and care staff in England.”

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