Autism training to be included on mandatory learning disability training for NHS staff

Oliver McGowan

Proposals for all NHS staff to have mandatory learning disability training will now include autism, according to care minister, Caroline Dinenage, at a Parliament debate.

The Parliamentary debate was due to a petition started by mother Paula McGowan, whose 18-year-old son died after a reaction to anti-psychotic drugs.

Her son, Oliver, died in 2016 at Southmead Hospital in Bristol and had a mild learning disability and high-functioning autism.

Mr McGowan died after being administered anti-psychotic medication, despite he and his family telling staff not to give him the drugs due to past reactions and never being diagnosed with a mental health condition.

A scan found he had neuroleptic malignant syndrome due to a reaction to the antipsychotic drugs and despite surgery to alleviate the swelling in his brain he continued to deteriorate.

At the end of October 2016, the family agreed to withdraw life support.

Ms McGowan said: “I believe his death could have been prevented if his doctors and nurses has received mandatory training.

“He had autism and a mild learning disability, and they weren’t trained to understand how to make reasonable adjustments for him.”

MP Caroline Dinenage said: “It would be a missed opportunity if we did not consider in our consultation the training requirements of staff to better support autistic people as well those with learning disabilities.”

The consultation will begin in January 2019 and the Government will publish its final plans for the training by the summer.

Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, said it was an important commitment from the Minister and has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of autistic people.

She said: “Many autisitic people continue to have much worse physical and mental health and the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early.

“Making sure that all healthcare staff understand autism, and the often simple changes that can help autistic people, is an important step to tackling this unacceptable health inequality – and creating a society that works for autistic people.”

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