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Dementia: Our work

What the RCN is doing to meet our commitment to improve care for people with dementia 

Improving care for residents living with dementia

Following our highly evaluated SPACE programme the Royal College of Nursing, with support from the RCN Foundation, is introducing these principles during a 12-month development programme to six care homes across the UK that provide nursing care.

The programme is based on a previous dementia project run by the RCN in acute hospital settings in 2011, and aims to help nursing staff who work in care homes make improvements to care for residents with dementia by drawing on the projects five principles for providing good dementia care, which can be summed up using the mnemonic SPACE:

Space principles of good dementia care

  • Staff who are skilled and have time to care
  • Partnership working with carers
  • Assessment and early identification of people living with dementia
  • Care plans that are person-centred and individualised
  • Environments that are dementia friendly

The programme will help care home staff to develop their skills and knowledge; improve their understanding of the role of carers, families and friends in dementia care; draw up local action plans for changes; and evaluate the effect of improvements.

Dementia specialist nurses

The RCN's dignity in dementia project found that having a dedicated dementia nursing post was instrumental to delivering changes in practice and providing good quality dementia are in hospital. In response, a review of the impact of dementia nurse specialists in hospitals was carried out by the University of Southampton and funded jointly by the RCN and the RCN Foundation. The resulting report called 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, which forms part of ongoing work at the RCN focusing on dementia care, was developed in response to the Prime Minister's Challenge on dementia to scope the role of dementia nurse specialists working in the acute care setting and develop recommendations for future developments.

See the full report Scoping the role of dementia nurse specialists in acute care and the RCN Summary and recommendations

RCN development project: Transforming dementia care for hospitals

This development programme funded by the RCN Foundation ran for a year with the main aims of:

  • supporting participants to develop effective partnerships with patients and carers and other key professions and organisations involved in the delivery of care
  • facilitating the learning and development of staff in delivering positive approaches to dementia care in the hospital setting
  • supporting participants to develop practice and lead on quality improvements in the care delivered for people with dementia and their families
  • facilitating the evaluation of outcomes of quality improvement initiatives which focus on patient/carer experience

Nine NHS Trusts took part in the programme to develop innovative ways to improve dementia care in hospitals. The programme included the delivery of the RCN's commitment to the Care of People with Dementia in General Hospitals and the SPACE principles.

An independent evaluation of the programme carried out by the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, showed that commitment and leadership for Trust boards as well as investing in dedicated dementia nurse specialists, was integral to achieving improvements in dementia care.

The programme was found to help clinical leads achieve some very positive outcomes for patients and improve engagement with family carers over a relatively short period of time.

You can view the Transforming Dementia Care in Hospitals Evaluation Report on the University of Worcester's website.