A friend in need
The Valuing People Project was launched in May 2008 as a response to concerns about education commissioning, particularly pre-registration learning disability nursing, as well as to explore more generally the specialist learning disability health workforce for the future. The project used a multi-methods approach. This article reports on the results of focus groups that were conducted with 23 people with a range of learning disabilities and 16 parents and relatives of people with learning disabilities from Oxford, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight between January and June 2009. The key message from people with learning disabilities was that they wanted the right kind of person to support them, including a range of health staff as well as social care staff. The importance of a learning disability nurse offering specialist support and a ‘hospital friend’ in acute health care settings were identified. The central message from parents was that they want to be listened to and supported. Taken collectively, both groups demonstrated that there is still strong support for a specialist NHS learning disability workforce. Learning disability nurses were specifically identified as central to this. It was also clear that educational preparation for the specialist health workforce for the future needs to be modernised.