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In early 2019, the Government held a public consultation on the potential introduction of mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for health and social care staff.

The review cited concerns about health inequalities and what it described as a disproportionate number of potentially avoidable deaths of people with a learning disability, underpinned by findings from the Government’s Learning Disability Mortality Review programme.

The Government also specifically referenced the case of Oliver McGowan, a teenager with autism who died in Bristol’s Southmead Hospital in 2016 after being given the anti-psychotic medication olanzapine when being treated for a seizure.

Among the measures announced as part of the Government’s response to the consultation in November 2019 was a commitment to pursue the introduction of mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for health and social care staff in England. Trials will begin in health and social care settings by April 2020, and report by March 2021, after which the wider roll-out of training is expected for all staff.

In a response to a parliamentary question in December 2019, Health Minister Caroline Dinenage also suggested additional proposals on amending the Mental Health Act 1983 to improve treatment for those with autism and learning disabilities would be forthcoming in a white paper in early 2020.

Baroness Hollins has introduced a private member’s bill in the current parliamentary session to provide for training on learning disability and autism for all health and social care staff in England and for the Government to publish a code of practice for specialist training on learning disability and autism.

In remarks during a debate in the House on the Queen’s Speech in January 2020, Lady Hollins described her bill as a “precaution” which may provide a useful vehicle to progress the Government’s aim for improving the safety of this patient group.

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