The government has proposed that autistic people and those with a learning disability are involved in developing mandatory training for care staff to help challenge attitudes and unconscious bias.
Nearly 3m 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.
The plans are designed to 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.
Clinicians often only see autistic people or people with a learning disability when they are unwell or anxious due to their environment and training can provide a safe and relaxed space for professionals to get to know someone and understand how they can make reasonable adjustments to their care.
As part of an eight-week consultation on the training, published today, the government is seeking the views of health and social care staff, employers, charities and people with a learning disability or on the autism spectrum, as well as their families and carers.
All relevant could receive a level of training to provide knowledge of the fundamental rights of people with a learning disability or autistic people, and how these can be translated into action.
Training could also include advice on how to make practical reasonable adjustments to improve how people with a learning disability and autistic people, of all ages, are supported.
The government is exploring routes to make the training a legal requirement, and expect that it would become part of health and care workers’ education and training, either before qualification, or in the role if already qualified.
Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that the lives of autistic people or those with a learning disability are being cut short in part because of barriers in accessing healthcare that most of us take for granted.
“Our plans to introduce mandatory training for all relevant health and care staff will help them to ensure more people receive the safe, compassionate and informed care that they are entitled to.”
Meanwhile, MP Dame Cheryl Gillan said:“As chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, I welcome this initiative as it is an ambition that all public facing staff will understand and be able to help people with a learning disability or, in particular, autism. I would encourage people to contribute to this excellent consultation.”