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For the first time ever, learning disability and mental health nurse education is to begin on Guernsey, allowing the Channel Island to “grow its own” nurses in those two specialties.
Learning disability and mental health nurse education, endorsed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, will start “on island” next year through an arrangement with the Open University.
“Our primary aim was that student nurses did not have to go off island to study”
The courses are due to run from February 2021 over four years, said the States of Guernsey in a statement announcing the development.
The island’s Institute of Health and Social Care Studies currently provides adult nurse training but does not run learning disability nurse or mental health nurse education.
The states noted that recruitment and retention of staff could be “challenging in the health and care environment” but was especially so for its Adult Disability Services (ADS).
As a result of the “negative impact” of staff turnover on the development of relationships with service users, it said the ADS knew a “formal on-island career progression pathway was needed”.
In particular, it highlighted that Guernsey currently had 21 learning disability nurses employed throughout the service, of which only one was born in Guernsey.
There are four others – also born in Guernsey – who now work in different parts of the ADS. All of them had to go off island for training and decided to return to Guernsey.
With the help of Jim Blair, a learning disability consultant in the UK who is learning disability advisor at the States of Guernsey, it was decided to investigate options for local staff to train and develop on Island.
“Being able to grow our own learning disability and mental health nurses is a fantastic step forward”
Now, having received endorsement from the NMC in the last few weeks, steps have been taken to finalise plans for the Open University courses to run in Guernsey from February 2021.
Students will be recruited from staff already employed by ADS, said the states in its announcement.
They will spend two days a week in their current role as a support worker, one day study and two days as a student nurse on placement. The course will run over four years.
ADS service manager Mandy Mackelworth said: “Many of those studying learning disability or mental health nursing are mature students with families, so our primary aim was that student nurses did not have to go off island to study, or if they did it would only be for a short placement.
“Being able to grow our own learning disability and mental health nurses is a fantastic step forward for these service areas,” she said.
“Not only will we be able to cut down on expensive recruitment costs, with career development opportunities available, we will be able to retain more local staff in post.”
Ms Mackelworth added that there would be a “robust” application and recruitment process in partnership with service users and the university for five places each year across the two courses.
“There is already interest from more than 15 people who would like to apply for the five places for the course beginning in February 2021, so there is likely to be stiff competition for places,” she said.