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Teen’s death prompts mandatory autism training

Health bosses have confirmed that all NHS and social care workers will receive mandatory autism training relevant to their role.

This comes following the death of 18-year-old Oliver McGowan who died at Southmead hospital in Bristol in 2016 after being given a drug he was allergic to, despite repeat warnings from his parents.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new training will focus on understanding learning disability and autism, legislation and rights and making reasonable adjustments such as using different communication methods for autistic people with sensory sensitivities.

The spokesman said the targeted programme will be ‘named in memory of Oliver McGowan and in recognition of his family’s tireless campaigning for better training for staff’. And will draw on case studies which ‘capture exactly why NHS and social care staff need learning disability and autism training’ the spokesperson said.

Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, welcomed the announcement.  She said:

‘Too many doctors, nurses, social workers and other health and care professionals don’t properly understand autism. Autistic children and adults end up at much greater risk of physical and mental health problems because of this lack of understanding. Today’s commitment to train all health and care staff is a big step forward and is the result of tireless campaigning from people like Paula McGowan.

‘To make any of these plans a reality, the next government must also invest in social care and community mental health services. Two in three autistic adults don’t have the support they need. Without it, autistic people can find themselves in a vicious cycle – forced to go into hospital because there’s no support and then unable to leave because there’s no support.’

The announcement comes following a consultation process that listened to the views of over 5,000 people, including charities, patient groups, professional bodies and the public. The responses overwhelmingly backed the principle of mandatory training.

A government spokesman said a series of trials will be run next year to inform a wider roll-out of the training, which aims to improve the quality of care and life expectancy.

Work is already underway to deliver the training and testing will take place in a variety of health and social care settings to help shape how it will be rolled out and delivered in future, the spokesman said.

Photo credit – Oliver’s Campaign

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