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New specialist dementia nurses to play pivotal role in community care

Tagged In:  Mental Health, Nursing

Swansea and Norfolk are two of the latest locations where specialist dementia nurses are being recruited to work in the community.

Of the estimated 850,000 people with dementia, approximately two thirds live in their own homes. With an increasing focus on care in the community, many CCGs and other healthcare providers are recruiting specialist dementia nurses to provide practical, clinical and emotional support to these people and their families.

In February, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) confirmed that Swansea was to become the first place in South Wales to benefit from Dementia UK's Admiral Nurses service, which provides specialist dementia nurses to the NHS and supports them in professional and practice development. This was followed in March by an announcement that six nurses were to be recruited for three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in South Norfolk, Norwich and North Norfolk.

Specialist dementia nurses work closely with social workers, community nurses, mental health teams and GPs. They also collaborate with specialised professionals in Physiotherapy jobs, Psychotherapy jobs and even Psychiatry jobs. Becoming a specialist dementia nurse requires additional post-registration training in the condition and at least two years experience in dementia care. Most dementia nurses also have a registered mental health nursing qualification. 

According to a 2013 report by the University of Southampton on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), an estimated 25% of acute hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia. The report goes on to say, "If dementia specialist nurses are able to reduce hospital stays for older people by one day on average, an annual return on investment of 37 per cent could be achieved with a net saving of nearly £11 million nationally."

The provision of specialist dementia nurses fits in with the NHS strategy to further integrate health and social care, provide person-centred care and reduce pressure on hospitals. Therefore, many experts are calling for the expansion of the service. 

Physiotherapist Nick Johnson, a dementia care specialist facilitator at ABMU, believes dementia care training should be available to the entire NHS workforce, including allied health professionals. Giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly's Health, Social Care and Sport committee, he said that the NHS needed to move away from the crisis management of people with dementia and build stronger community teams through high-quality education and training. 

Of course, it's not just dementia care that can benefit from specialist nursing. In February, Diabetes UK called for specialist nurses to become 'clinical champions' to help deliver better care for people with diabetes. In March, Carol Long, CEO of charity Young Epilepsy highlighted a continuing demand for epilepsy specialist nurses across the UK. Research has shown that these roles are good value for money, " she wrote in a Nursing in Practice blog post. "Having a specialist nurse can reduce emergency hospital admissions."

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