Fears a lack of learning disability nurses could lead to another Whorlton Hall scandal
A Norwich care expert has warned there will be more instances of abuse like those uncovered by BBC Panorama unless more people become learning disability nurses.
Kirsty Henry, a learning disability nurse and course director at the University of East Anglia (UEA), called the future of care for people with learning disabilities into question amid the revelations over abuse at care home Whorlton Hall in County Durham.
The BBC's undercover filming appeared to show patients at Whorlton Hall being taunted and intimidated, and Ms Henry said left her "devastated".
But she said because there were a wealth of nurses retiring and the reducing popularity of people training for the role, that "we are facing a truly disastrous situation which could really affect the care of vulnerable people across the UK".
She said: "People with learning disabilities are already dying from preventable conditions due to inadequate care and I fear that a shortage of people trained to provide proper care, will lead to more deaths."
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Recent figures show that women with learning disabilities die 27 years earlier and men 23 years earlier, when compared to the general population.
Ms Henry added: "With the recent shocking report by Panorama into the abuse of people at Whorlton Hall, it's imperative that people with the skills and training are encouraged into the profession.
"Many universities have scrapped their courses altogether as they just aren't receiving enough applications to study. But we continue to run our course and our staff are working really hard to sing from the rooftops about how rewarding it is to work with people who have disabilities."
Ms Henry said learning disability nurses worked in different ways to other nurses - she said they were holistic and focussed on individual people.
"We work from the individual up," she said. "In standard care it's getting more and more to a situation where there are only one or two options and you go with it or you don't have any other option. It's really that learning disability nurses would look at all the options available to somebody."
She said without keeping the workforce topped up, more people with learning disabilities would be shut away in care homes, potentially open to abuse.