Campaigner brings drive for health professionals to receive mandatory autism and learning disability training to Cumbria and Lancashire

Campaigner brings drive for health professionals to receive mandatory autism and learning disability training to Cumbria and Lancashire

A high-profile mother who is campaigning for all doctors and nurses to receive mandatory training in autism and learning disability awareness following the death of her teenage son is to visit the University of Cumbria.

Paula McGowan will be discussing Oliver’s Campaign when she visits the university’s Lancaster campus on 10 April.

More than 200 people will fill the Sentamu lecture theatre for the event, which is being coordinated by learning disability nursing staff and students from the university.

They will include current nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and other healthcare students along with professionals invited from health trusts across Cumbria and Lancashire.

Diana Heyes, who is in the running for a national student nurse of the year award on 26 April, is a member of the university’s Learning Disability Nursing and Autism Society.

Third-year learning disability nursing student Diana, 50, from Morecambe, said: “Paula’s son Oliver lost his life in tragic circumstances and since then Paula has dedicated her life to campaigning on this issue. She started a petition about making autism and learning disabilities awareness training mandatory for all healthcare professionals and nationally there have been moves to address that involving the NHS and other bodies.

“Our event provides an opportunity for Paula to share her experience with trainees before they even qualify, which will help ensure that they have that awareness and understanding of how important it is to listen to the views of families and carers from the outset before they qualify and go to work in their chosen profession. It is also important to reinforce this message to current health care professionals, to help to prevent further avoidable tragedies.”

Paula recently visited Westminster as part of Oliver’s Campaign. She discussed the progress of training with a number of key figures including health and social care minister Caroline Dineage and peer Baroness Sheila Hollins, professor of psychiatry of learning disability at St George’s, University of London.

Sarah Duffin, lecturer in learning disability nursing at the University of Cumbria, said: “It is recognised that people with a learning disability are much more likely to die of something which could have been prevented than others in the general population. A Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with a learning disability found that 38 per cent of people with a learning disability died from an avoidable cause.

“Nationally the NHS and others have done a lot of work to help improve health care for people with learning disabilities. It includes things like making reasonable adjustments to help meet specific needs of individuals and the STOMP campaign which is about stopping the over medication of people with a learning disability, autism or both.”

She added: “Paula now lives in Australia with her husband and so we thank her for agreeing to speak to students and healthcare professionals in this region whilst she is in the UK for a short time.”

Learning disability nursing is 100 years old in 2019.

As a key UK provider of newly-qualified nurses and other health professionals, Paula’s visit to the University of Cumbria is the latest in a series of events taking place at the institution to mark the centenary of this important area of nursing.

To attend the event, book here.