Union votes to allow nurses with dementia to keep working.

The Royal College of Nursing has voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing nurses with dementia to carry on working in the NHS with the aim of continuing to benefit from their experience,skills and knowledge. The move was welcomed by the Alzheimer’s Society who called it a progressive step towards support for people who develop the condition while still in employment.

There are over 42,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with dementia before they reach 65 with only 15 per cent continuing to work. The nursing workforce is ageing and of the 318,000 NHS nurses in England, one in three is due to retire in the next ten years.

RCN chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies told the congress that nurses with dementia could remain in roles that involved dealing with the public but would probably not continue in positions where they were expected to make critical decisions.

However Joyce Robins of Patient Concern said “ This motion is frightening and quite extraordinary. I would not want someone with dementia treating me. I would be worried that they may give me the wrong medication or forget how to perform a lifesaving procedure. they could kill somebody “ she added “ people with dementia should be receiving care, not giving it “

The Nursing and Midwifery Council code states that they should “maintain the level of health you need to carry out your professional role” It also states that they should “ take all reasonable personal precautions necessary to avoid any potential health risks to colleagues,people receiving care and the public”

Joanna James of the RCN’s older people ‘s forum proposed the motion but other nurses raised concerns about the impact on patients.

The move comes after nurses threatened to strike over pay for the first time in a century. The cap of 1 per cent on pay rises is in place until 2019-2020 and the RCN has voted in favour of a “summer of discontent “ which would be followed up by industrial action unless they received a higher pay rise.