NHS nurses should be allowed to keep working even if they are diagnosed with dementia, the profession's top body has said.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) voted in favour of a motion on Monday (15 May) which suggests that if dementia was detected, it did not necessarily spell the end of the nurse's career.

The motion was approved at the union's annual congress in Liverpool and binds the RCN to develop strategies in order to allow those with dementia to continue nursing.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, told the congress that "patient safety comes first" but said: "I am sure it is not just in nursing that there is an assumption that as soon as you are diagnosed with dementia, that is the end," reported the Times.

The move was welcomed as a "progressive step" by the Alzheimer's Society, but branded as dangerous by others.

Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, told the Times: "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 someone.

"People with dementia are the ones that should be receiving care, not giving it. Nurses need a clear head and a good understanding of what they are doing. The union have lost their minds."

The RCN passed the motion as an increasing number of people in Britain are diagnosed with dementia before retirement age.

The body, whose workforce is aging and with many due to retire within the next 10 years, also passed the motion as it faces a chronic shortage of nurses.

It says there are roughly 40,000 unfilled nursing posts in England and Wales with an additional 12,000 support worker roles also vacant.

Also at the congress, nurses threatened to strike for the first time in a century after members voted in favour of one by a majority of 78%, due to pay rises being capped to 1% until 2019-2020.

Ed Freshwater, of the RCN, said: "Relentless undermining has pushed us to breaking point. No more. This ends now. We've had the poll, let's have the action."