Special training that will help health and social care workers better support those with a learning disability and autistic people is being launched nationally today.
The launch of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism is named after Oliver McGowan, from Emersons Green, who died aged 18 in November 2016 at Southmead Hospital.
Oliver had been given antipsychotic medication, despite a warning from both him and his parents that it was unsuitable for him, highlighting a lack of understanding of the needs of people with a learning disability or autistic people.
Oliver’s mother Paula successfully launched a campaign to make training on caring for people with a learning disability and autistic people mandatory for all health and care staff.
This innovative training has been developed from the beginning with expertise from people with a learning disability and autistic people as well as their families and carers.
The first part is now ready to be accessed following a two-year trial which involved 8,300 health and care staff across England.
Participants found there has been an increase in their knowledge, skills and communication with autistic people and people with a learning disability after completing the training.
The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training will provide staff with the right information to make reasonable adjustments as well as challenging their preconceptions of autism and learning disabilities. Greater knowledge of learning disability and autism will ensure that care and support can be better tailored to suit people’s needs and is expected to lead to better interactions and outcomes and fewer incidents of inequality and avoidable deaths for people with a learning disability and autistic people when they need to receive care.
The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training, which has been developed in partnership with Health Education England, Department for Health and Social Care, Skills for Care and NHS England, is ready for staff across the health and care sector to access today.
Mark Radford, Chief Nurse at Health Education England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer (England) said: “The introduction of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning and Disability is a vital step forward in ensuring that people with a learning disability and autistic people receive the right levels of care that are appropriate for their needs.
“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.”
Paula McGowan OBE said: “I take comfort in knowing that the death of my teenage son Oliver has resulted in a positive change as a direct consequence, something which will resonate with many and is deeply meaningful to me.
“I have been humbled to observe all health and care colleagues working collaboratively to strive for this change. There is more work to be done, but the journey has now started, and I truly believe we are on the right trajectory to achieve better health and care outcomes for neurodivergent people.”
Steve Barclay, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “Thanks to the campaigning and determination of Paula McGowan, from today health and social care staff will begin to have access to The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training, to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to better meet the care and support needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people.
“What happened to Oliver was a tragedy – this training is a vital next step to address existing health inequalities for autistic people and people with a learning disability, providing them with the right care and support in health and care settings.”
Simon Gregory, Medical Director for Primary and Integrated Care at Health Education England, said: “We know that health outcomes and life expectancy are worse for people with a learning disability and this is a serious concern for us. GPs and General Practice teams all have a responsibility to support people with a learning disability and autistic people. The Oliver McGowan training is an excellent resource to help us give great, equitable care.”
As a result of an infarction caused by meningitis when he was baby, Oliver was left with mild hemiplegia, focal partial epilepsy, a mild learning disability and later on a diagnosis of high functioning autism. Oliver’s disabilities did not hold him back.
He played for the England Development football squads. He was a registered athlete and ranked third best in the country for track 200 metres. He was a member of Team Bath and was being trained to become a Paralympian.
You can find out more about Oliver’s story here.