SPECIALIST dementia nurses could save the health service £11m a year, according to experts in Southampton.

A report by the University of Southampton and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling for greater support, funding and training of specialist nurses to boost care for dementia patients and save millions of pounds by slashing the time sufferers are in hospital.

With more than 20,000 people suffering from the devastating disease in Southampton and Hampshire, it has highlighted the significant contribution made by specialist dementia nurses in hospitals and found that if they were properly funded and trained, they could reduce hospital stays for older people by one day on average – a saving of almost £11m.

The report, Scoping the Role of Dementia Nurse Specialists in Acute Care, reveals how the specially-trained staff can reduce the length of hospital stays, help prevent falls and readmissions, and provide education and leadership to other staff.

It also recommends that there should be at least one full time dementia specialist nurse for every 300 hospital admissions for people with dementia.

Peter Griffiths, author of the report and chairman of Health Services Research at the University of Southampton, added: “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.”