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RPS calls for mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for pharmacists

Training on learning disabilities and autism should be compulsory for all pharmacists in England, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

The Health and Care Act 2022 introduced a requirement for all health and social care staff registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to receive learning disability and autism training appropriate to their role to help prevent avoidable deaths.

The RPS ‘firmly believes’ that such training should also be mandatory for all pharmacists due to their prominent place in the healthcare system and their role in medicines safety.

Commenting on the training, Amandeep Doll, head of professional belonging and engagement, said: ‘This training equips healthcare professionals with the right skills and knowledge to provide safe, compassionate and informed care to individuals with autism and learning disabilities.

‘Pharmacists should be an essential part of this training as they are often the first point of contact for these patients and manage their medications every day, ensuring comprehensive care.

‘It is vital that pharmacists and everyone who cares for people with learning disabilities and autism in the health and social care system complete this training to uphold their rights and treat them with the utmost respect. The training will increase knowledge and promote a culture of inclusivity within the healthcare system.’

RPS consultation response

Calls for this training requirement comes after the RPS submitted a response to the Government’s consultation on the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism code of practice.

This standardised training was developed to meet the new legal obligation for CQC-registered staff and was under Government consultation until 19 September 2023. A second, easy read version of this proposed code of practice is open for consultation and will close on 16 October.

In 2016, Oliver McGowan, a young autistic teenager with a mild learning disability, sadly died after having a severe reaction to medication which he and his family had asked for him not to receive. Oliver’s parents, Paula and Tom McGowan, have since tirelessly campaigned for better training for health and care staff.

In her ministerial forward to the main consultation, Maria Caulfield, parliamentary under secretary of state, said: ‘Every person with a learning disability and autistic person has the right to excellent care and service from wherever they choose to access it. Services must treat people equitably but should also acknowledge and adapt to the individual needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people.’

She added: ‘This package represents and clearly demonstrates the standard that the Government expects training in this area to meet as set out in further detail in this code of practice.’

In its consultation response, the RPS questioned whether the guidance for training on learning disability and autism is good enough and highlighted a lack of clarity over what situations additional training would be required and how often the training should be repeated. A one-off training would not be sufficient, it said.

The RPS also warned of the risk that training providers may just see it as a tick-box exercise and the need to bear in mind the fact that all people with autism and learning disabilities will have different abilities and experiences depending on the severity of their conditions, which it said is important to capture in any training requirements.

Delivering person-centred care

Referring to the consultation and proposed training, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said: ‘Employers and commissioners of services not regulated by the CQC should consider how staff in those environments will have access to similar training.’

It added: ‘The PDA Ability Network encourages all pharmacists to develop an appropriate understanding of all forms of disability amongst patients and colleagues. This is to help ensure the appropriate delivery of patient-centred care and to create inclusive workplaces.

‘As with all training required for their role, the PDA expects employers to provide protected learning time for each pharmacist to complete the training and ongoing support for the learning to be put into practice.’

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