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RCN and University report calls for more specialist dementia nurses

Published: 
26 March 2013

A new report published by the RCN and the University of Southampton calls for greater support, funding and training for specialist dementia nurses, adding that they could save the health service almost £11,000,000 a year.

The report - Scoping the role of dementia nurse specialists in acute care – highlights the significant contribution dementia nurse specialists could make in hospital settings. It found that if dementia specialist nurses were properly funded and trained they could reduce hospital stays for older people by one day on average, which could save almost £11,000,000 a year.

Dementia nurse specialists can reduce the length of hospital stays, help prevent falls and readmissions, and provide education and leadership to other staff. The report recommends that there should be at least one whole time dementia specialist nurse for every 300 hospital admissions for people with dementia.

However, the role of dementia nurse specialist is still relatively new, and the report recommends a greater focus on education, training and workforce planning to address this.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said: “Dementia is one of the biggest issues facing the country and it is an issue that the health service cannot afford to ignore.

“Evidence from other areas of the health service shows how effective specialist nurses can be in improving the lives of patients and also raising awareness of the needs of dementia patients with other health care staff.

“Their expertise can improve patient care as well as providing real long-term savings and they could play an important role in improving the experience of people with dementia in this country.”

Peter Griffiths, author of the report and Chair of Health Services Research at the University of Southampton, said: “With more than 800,000 people in the UK affected by dementia, we desperately need a new approach to improve patient and family experiences. Specialist dementia nurses, embedded in an acute setting, might have significant benefits for patients, their families and hospitals.

“Investment is needed to support the education and training of nurses and to create new posts. However we could see a massive return on this investment. The success of specialist nurses in other areas suggests an opportunity for the same position in dementia care.”

Dinah Cox, newly appointed Head of RCN Foundation, which funded the report, said: “We are proud to support the RCN’s programme of work on Dementia. The RCN Foundation’s work focuses on working in partnership with organisations and individuals on innovative projects which will make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the public.

“As a registered charity that supports nursing to transform service delivery and provide quality patient care we look forward to working on similar initiatives in the future.”

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