Compulsory training for health and care personnel in England to support people with learning disabilities and people with autism was launched after a grieving mother’s four-year campaign.
Paula McGowan’s 18-year-old son Oliver, who had a mild learning disability and autism, has died after doctors “arrogantly” gave him antipsychotic medication despite warnings from his family that they were unsuitable.
McGowan on Tuesday expressed relief that her campaigning years have resulted in change and said she felt comfortable knowing others would have a better chance of receiving proper care.
McGowan said: “There is more work to be done, but the journey has already begun, and I truly believe we are on the right track to achieve better health and care outcomes for neurodivergent people.”
Oliver, a talented athlete, was admitted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol in October 2016 after having a seizure that did not go away when he was given his normal medication.
His family and Oliver himself repeatedly told doctors they shouldn’t give him antipsychotic medications because he had reacted badly, his investigation reported in 2018. However, doctors prescribed antipsychotic medications to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a measure described by his mother in court as arrogant. Oliver became seriously ill and died the following month.
McGowan said on Tuesday: “When Oliver died it was obvious that the health and care staff had little understanding of his neurodivergent needs. They did not understand the importance of making reasonable accommodations for him; first they did not see him as a person.
“People with a learning disability die up to 26 years earlier than the general population because their health care needs are not being met. This is unacceptable, not only for patients and their families, but also for health and care staff who have not been provided with adequate training.”
The new program has been called Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disabilities and Autism in memory of the teenager. A two-year trial has been carried out involving more than 8,000 health and care staff.
Believed to be the only training of its kind in the world, it has been developed from scratch with the experience of people with learning disabilities and people with autism, as well as their families and carers.
Oliver McGowan’s compulsory training is divided into two levels. Level one is for staff who need a general awareness of the support autistic people or people with learning disabilities may need, while level two is for people who may need to provide care and support.
Both levels will complete a 90-minute eLearning package, which has been launched. It includes learning from autistic people and people with learning disabilities, their carers, family members, and experts in the field. It also features Oliver’s story.
Those who complete level one will be required to participate in a 60-minute interactive online session, while those who complete level two will attend a one-day face-to-face training session co-taught by trainers who have a lived experience with learning. disability and autism. These sessions are expected to be available early next year.
health secretary, Steve Barclaysaid: “What happened to Oliver was a tragedy – this training is the vital next step in addressing existing health inequalities for people with autism and people with learning disabilities, by providing them with the right care and support in care settings. and health”.