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Shift changes ‘may compromise safety on dementia ward’

Independent Federation of Nursing says proposed longer breaks for nurses on Glasgow hospital’s dementia and mental health wards could affect care and increase patient aggression
Dementia patients

A nursing union is considering legal action over proposed changes to shift patterns, which it claims could compromise care and put staff at increased risk of assaults.

The Independent Federation of Nursing (IFN) is concerned about changes to shift patterns on the dementia and mental health wards at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow.

The 37 nurses on the two wards work 13-hour days with three half-hour breaks, an arrangement that affords them an extra day off each month.

The wards, which hold 44 beds between them, are run by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, which includes NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board and Glasgow City Council.

Longer breaks

The partnership wants to bring shifts on the

A nursing union is considering legal action over proposed changes to shift patterns, which it claims could compromise care and put staff at increased risk of assaults.


Patients with dementia need consistent care, which could be put at risk
if nurses take longer breaks, the union has warned. Picture: iStock

The Independent Federation of Nursing (IFN) is concerned about changes to shift patterns on the dementia and mental health wards at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow. 

The 37 nurses on the two wards work 13-hour days with three half-hour breaks, an arrangement that affords them an extra day off each month. 

The wards, which hold 44 beds between them, are run by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, which includes NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board and Glasgow City Council.

Longer breaks

The partnership wants to bring shifts on the two wards into line with shifts in other areas of the hospital from March, meaning nurses will take two one-hour breaks per shift and lose their extra leave day each month.

IFN general secretary Irenee O’Neill said patients on the wards are ‘very vulnerable’ and those with dementia need consistent care, which could be put at risk if nurses are on break for longer periods.

‘The patients are used to specific nursing staff,’ said Ms O'Neill. ‘If you have periods of absence, that can cause deterioration in the patients’ cognitive impairment.’

A lack of engagement with nurses due to longer breaks could also lead to patients becoming agitated ‘and that can lead to aggression’, said Ms O’Neill.

She said the proposal will put healthcare staff, other patients and families visiting the wards at greater risk of assault. 

Work-life balance

The IFN added that the current shift pattern enabled a better work-life balance for some of the nurses.

But a spokesperson for the social care partnership said there is less continuity of care on the shorter break shifts and there is no evidence that switching to longer breaks could increase assaults on staff. 

The spokesperson said the IFN has been told that management will work with staff to accommodate work-life balance issues. 

The union said it is consulting with its legal team about the shift changes, adding ‘the possibility of legal intervention becomes increasingly likely’. 


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