NIAS Crews To Be Trained In Learning Disability

Learning Disability Training for NI Ambulance Crew

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has announced that all Emergency Medical Technicians, who form part of every ambulance crew, are to receive learning disability awareness training with the charity Mencap NI.  

The 85 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) will be trained to better understand the needs of people with a learning disability and the barriers they often experience when accessing health services.  Mencap NI’s training will help Ambulance Crews to identify and more effectively support the 42,000 people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland when they need emergency care.

Dr Nigel Ruddell, NIAS Medical Director,said: “It is important that NIAS Ambulance Crew can identify, understand and communicate effectively with a person with a learning disability when they need emergency medical treatment.“

Getting ready for the first day of training is Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap NI (right) Dr Nigel Ruddell, NIAS Medical Director (centre) with Alora McInerney (4) and Selina McInerney (right) from Comber.

The Learning Disability Awareness training will form part of an EMT’s ‘Associate Ambulance Practitioner’s’ training, focusing on a person centred approach and an understanding of the reasonable adjustments that can be used to ensure everyone receives the same standards of ambulance practitioner care.  

Alora McInerney is four years old and has the brittle bone condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Hydro Kephalis, Pulmonary Hypoplasia, and Developmental Delay requiring constant medical attention and at times emergency ambulance care. 

Alora’s Mother Selina McInerney from Comber said: “Alora’s condition means that we can need emergency support at any time and ambulance crews have always been so professional when we have to call in an emergency. Alora is non-verbal, so it is important for ambulance crew to listen to what I tell them about Alora and what she is trying to communicate. This is the same for any parent or carer of someone with a learning disability, especially as so many people with a learning disability have profound multiple and complex needs who require daily health and social care support.”

NIAS Clinical Training Officers and Mencap Disability Equality Officers will jointly deliver the learning disability awareness sessions as part of the overall Associate Ambulance Practitioners course, which student complete to qualify as an EMT.  The training starts on Wednesday 21 August at NIAS Headquarters in Belfast and 24 September in Derry/Londonderry.

Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap NI said: “We are delighted to work in partnership with the NIAS to train ambulance staff to better understand people with a learning disability.  Simple changes in care and support through the use of reasonable adjustments can make a big difference for people with a learning disability. These include better communication, more time and clearer information.”

The Mencap training with the NI Ambulance Trust is part of the charities ‘Treat Me Well’ campaign to transform how health services treat people with a learning disability. 

Margaret Kelly continued saying: “Unfortunately, people with a learning disability face many health inequalities. Compared to the general population, they experience markedly different outcomes in terms of avoidable deaths, long-term health conditions and life expectancy. For example people with a learning disability die on average sixteen years earlier and are four times more likely to die an avoidable death.”