Cuts to learning disability course will have ‘devastating effect’

After not recruiting “sufficient students to meet its targets”, Bangor University has decided to reduce the staffing levels by half a post.

“We are bitterly disappointed that the university has decided to make these cuts to the LD lecturing team”

Helen Whyley

The move will mean the current two and a half staff will be reduced to two full-time equivalent posts, the university has confirmed.

It said the decision was in response to the current “challenging financial landscape” facing the higher education sector in the UK.

Prior to the decision, Bangor University held a consultation on the proposes change, which it claimed would allow the facility to maintain the agreed staff/student ratio of 1:17 across all nursing courses.

A spokesman for the university said: “In response to the challenging financial landscape facing the higher education sector in the UK, we have concluded a period of consultation with staff and students regarding a number of options which will enable the university to meet its financial targets.”

“Unfortunately learning disability nursing has not been recruiting sufficient students to meet its targets”

Bangor University

He added: “Unfortunately learning disability nursing has not been recruiting sufficient students to meet its targets over recent years, and the university has decided to reduce the staffing level by half a post, from the current 2.5 to two full-time equivalent staff.” 

The initial threat to the post sparked Lucy Spencer, a learning disability student nurse at Bangor, to start a petition, which has so far been signed by nearly 900 pepole.

In a statement supporting the petition, she called on the university to “stop the cuts to the learning disability nursing course to protect the lives of people living with a learning disability across North Wales”.

In addition, this week, RCN Wales hit out over the decision to go ahead with the reduction in the wake of the consultation and raised concerns over the future of the course.

Helen Whyley, director at RCN Wales, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the university has decided to make these cuts to the learning disability lecturing team.

“How will Bangor University be able to encourage learning disability nursing students to apply for places at the university, without enough learning disability nurse lecturers providing the proper level of academic support,” she said.

Ms Whyley added: “This reduction in lecturing staff is also particularly unhelpful, given that the Welsh government has made quality of life for people with learning disabilities a priority, and increased preregistration student places for learning disability nursing.”

helen whyley

helen whyley

Source: RCN Wales

Helen Whyley

She warned that it takes a “significant amount of time” to produce a lecturer who can educate nursing students and undertake world-class research.

“Bangor University has an excellent learning disability team and reducing this team will only produce negative consequences for the learning disability nursing workforce,” she said. “This will also effect the communities of North Wales, which will suffer for many years to come.”

Ms Whyley also noted the prospect of “down-grading” the remaining staff within the team. She said: “This will only further de-skill, de-motivate and disenfranchise learning disability services within Bangor University.”

“It also sends out a message of devaluing the learning disability academic staff within the education institution of the university,” she added.

The decision is in contrast to moves by a number of other universities around the UK, as exclusively revealed in an investigation by Nursing Times earlier this month.

It showed that a series of new learning disability nursing programmes were being launched across England in a bid to tackle the “crisis” state of nursing shortages in the sector. The investigation formed part of a series of articles focusing on the state of learning disability nursing.