Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

Our work

The RCN's Learning Disability Nursing forum is led by Jonathan Beebee, forum chair and a team of six steering committee members representing this branch of nursing and its members across the UK.

We would like to update you on our work in relation to a 2019 RCN Congress resolution debate on the human rights of people who have a learning disability and/ or autism.

The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled to, including people with a learning disability and autism. However, we continue to see evidence of continued denial of people’s human rights. Whether this is abusive practices such as Whorlton Hall Hospital or cases of premature mortality arising from diagnostic overshadowing and denial of reasonable adjustments, there is a need for decisive action to prevent further incidents.   

Last year we celebrated 100 years of learning disability nursing, where we heard of fantastic interventions from across the UK to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism. However, while the last century has resulted in significant changes in the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism, for many the denial of human rights is a common and daily occurrence.  Many neglectful actions that deny human rights do not make the news and as a result there is still a need for further action. 

At RCN Congress in 2019, Resolution E29 stated:

‘That RCN Congress calls upon the RCN Council to lobby government organisations across the UK to take urgent action that safeguards the human rights of people with learning disabilities and autism.’   

We believe it is important for nurses to be leading on human rights and calling upon others to address this issue.

To take this resolution forward, the RCN Learning Disability Nursing Forum has arranged a special summit to ‘respect, protect and fulfill’ our commitment to human rights. This summit is a targeted event, where selected individuals from across the UK, are invited to consider how they can support the RCN’s resolution and what action needs to be taken to safeguard this highly vulnerable group.

If you would like to discuss this work in more detail please contact: or

We would also encourage you to join the forum if you have not already. This can be done via MyRCN

Do take a look at the Learning Disability Nursing forum web pages where you can access our resources and films.

RCN 2020 forum steering committee appointments

Are you passionate about learning disability and would like to promote learning disabilities to a wider audience, then apply to be a forum steering committee member on the RCN Learning Disability Forum.  Applications closed on the 26 July 2019.

Page last updated - 05/02/2020