A NURSING union has hit out at new shift patterns which they claim will compromise the care of vulnerable dementia patients and put staff at increased risk of assaults.

The Independent Federation of Nursing is considering legal action over a change in work patterns for staff at Glasgow’s Stobhill hospital.

Nurses who care for elderly patients with advanced dementia within mental health wards at Stobhill Hospital are entitled to three half-hour breaks in a 12-hour shift.

The union said the shift pattern also entitled staff to an extra day off over a four-week period.

Shift patterns are now to be aligned with staff at the acute hospital, which will afford them two one-hour breaks.

The Independent Federation of Nursing say shorter, more frequent breaks gives dementia patients greater continuity of care as well as respite for staff from the pressures of the job.

Irenee O’Neil, general secretary of the union, said: “The implications for patient care is that there will not be the intensity of clinical interaction between staff and patients.

“Where we are dealing with patients with dementia, there needs to be a constancy.

“If people are off the ward for an hour at a time because of their fragile mental state it can confuse patients and could increase the number of assaults.”

The union believes it may have a case to pursue individual discrimination claims on the grounds that it will impact on the work life balance of staff.

A spokesman for NHSGGC said: “We have a flexible rostering policy which local ward managers implement to agree work patterns that best suit the needs of patients and staff.

“This ensures there are the right numbers and skill mix on duty, at the right time, to deliver care and ensure safe and effective services are delivered.”