The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have warned that cuts to the Learning Disability Nursing course at Bangor University will have a ‘devastating effect’ on students and patient care across North Wales.
Bangor University has decided to reduce staffing levels for the Learning Disability Nursing course by half a post, which means the current two and a half staff will be reduced to two full-time equivalent posts. It said the decision was in response to not recruiting “sufficient students to meet its targets” and to the current “challenging financial landscape” facing the higher education sector in the UK.
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.”
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.”
Prior to the decision, Bangor University held a consultation on the proposed change, which it claimed would allow the facility to maintain the agreed staff/student ratio of 1:17 across all nursing courses.
RCN Wales have now hit out over the decision to go ahead with the cuts and have 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 pre-registration student places for learning disability nursing.”
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 by the University is in contrast to the recent Welsh Government announcement they will provide an additional £2 million of funding to improve NHS services in Wales for people with a learning disability.
A report by Nursing Times earlier this month also highlighted 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.
Lucy Spencer, a student studying learning disability nursing at Bangor, started a petition against the cuts which has been signed by nearly 900 people. She said: “I am devastated to hear that the cuts are going ahead. At a time when the welsh government are investing so much money into learning disability nursing the cuts just do not make sense.
“The future for learning disability nursing across North Wales is very concerning. An email has also been sent asking for students and stakeholders to co design a way forward, surely in order to make the cuts in the first place a plan for a way forward should already be in place otherwise how can the cuts be justified?
“There were nearly 900 signatures on the recent petition and many letters against the proposals. I do not feel that the university has considered this response. I hope that Bangor University reconsider the impact that these cuts will have.”