The Learning Disability Specialist Nurse

Sarah Haines 120

Written by Sarah Haines
Learning Disability Clinical Nurse Specialist

The learning disability specialist nurse


People with learning disabilities and/or autism can have high health needs which may at times go unrecognised and unmet. This in turn can impact on life expectancy as well as quality of life. It can also mean they are likely to be frequent users of general hospital services.
Evidence suggests that accessing hospital services can be problematic for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. Staff require support to ensure that individual needs are met effectively.


One method of support is specialist nursing input in the form of the learning disability clinical nurse specialist (CNS). Many hospitals now have a learning disability nurse specialist to help support people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families/carers who may access the hospital for any reason.


The learning disability CNS aims to play a crucial role in raising the profile and status of people who attend the hospital and who have a learning disability and/or autism.


How can the learning disabilities nurse specialist help?


To work directly with patients and their families/carers to assist them with admission to hospital , and to liaise with specialist teams and hospital staff to identify the support required (e.g clinic and pre-operative visits, and co-ordinate discharge planning).


To support and enable acute services to make reasonable adjustments to the way we deliver care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.


To provide additional support for patients with learning disabilities and/or autism, when they access acute hospital services.


To actively promote the needs and rights of people with learning disabilities and/or autism, including issues of consent, right to treatment and mental capacity.


To raise awareness of the specific health needs of people with learning disabilities and/or autism and provide person centred risk assessments which outline interventions and measures to reduce risks.


To act as an advocate for patients/carers and their families.


To work closely with colleagues in primary care to help patients who are coming in for planned appointments and procedures, preparing them for hospital stay, and making their experience less stressful.


To provide education and training for front-line staff to increase awareness of the needs of patients and learning disabilities and or/autism and how to adapt and plan care for them.


The learning disability nurse specialist can help with the following:


♦  Pre-admission and discharge planning.
♦  Desensitisation planning.
♦  Communication advice.
♦  Service user education.
♦  Carer support and advice.
♦  Liaising with GPs, community teams and relevant organisations.
♦  Capacity and consent advice.
♦  Facilitation of outpatients appointments.
♦  Pre-discharge planning.
♦  Accessible information development.

♦  Advice and support on reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities and/or autism when accessing the hospital.