Compulsory autism training for NHS staff has launched following a teens death

Mandatory autism training is being rolled out to the NHS sector following the death of a teenage boy in Bristol. 

In July the Health and Care Act 2022 introduced a requirement which stated regulated service providers should make sure their staff receive training on learning disabilities and autism. 

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After a teenage boy in Bristol, named Oliver McGowan passed away in 2016 due to staff not fully understanding his autism diagnosis, his death has urged the rollout of the training.

The programme, which has already been trialled, will be named after Oliver and is expected to be co-delivered by trainers who have experienced learning disabilities and autism first-hand.

As well as encouraging the quick rollout of training to NHS staff, the programme, which was launched at the beginning of this month, is the only one with permission to include Paula McGowan OBE, telling her son’s story and explaining why the training is taking place. 

The first part of the training programme includes an eLearning package which every health worker is expected to complete despite their job title. The second part includes a one-hour interactive session for people who don’t know what autism is and for those that are aware of the condition, a 1-day face-to-face training session is required.

In November 2016, Oliver was prescribed an anti-psychotic drug he was allergic to, despite repeated warnings coming from his parents.

The 18-year-old boy suffered an epileptic seizure and after being given olanzapine to sedate him, he died in intensive care after a rare side effect caused his brain to swell.

An independent review has discovered the boys death, who passed at Southmead Hospital in intensive care, was potentially avoidable.

The first part of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training is being rolled out following a two-year trial involving more than 8,300 health and care staff across England. 

Mark Radford, Chief Nurse at Health Education England said: ‘Following the tragedy of Oliver’s death, Paula McGowan has tirelessly campaigned to ensure that Oliver’s legacy is that all health and care staff receive this critical training.

‘Paula and many others have helped with the development of the training from the beginning.

‘Making Oliver’s training mandatory will ensure that the skills and expertise needed to provide the best care for people with a learning disability and autistic people is available right across health and care.’

Photo by Rusty Watson


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