Last month, alongside the NIHR and ESRC, Alzheimer’s Society hosted the first ever ‘UK Dementia Care Research Summit’. Here we share highlights from the day and the political context to the event.
The Summit brought together over 80 leading researchers, clinicians and policy makers to ensure that care research is firmly on the map alongside biomedical research to develop new treatments.
We were also joined by an engaged, online audience of over 700 people across the UK and around the globe.
Reflecting back on the day
Celebrating success in care research
The Summit was a rare occasion to celebrate the breadth of successes in care research to date. This has included the direct impact felt by people affected by dementia through programme such as STrAtegies for RelaTives (START), an improvement in diagnosis rates and a dramatic reduction in the use of anti-psychotics in dementia.
There has also been a drive to bring a greater awareness of risk factors of dementia through NHS health checks to the public.
Changes to infrastructure to supporting dementia research such as ‘Enabling Research in Care Homes’ and ‘Join Dementia Research’ have accelerated care research, shining through as having huge impact.
We have been able to build capacity in the field through specific early career funding schemes and support for this valuable group of researchers through initiatives such as the NIHR Dementia Research website.
Implementation: From research to practise
It’s clear the greatest challenge to improving care continues to be implementation. This will not come as a surprise to anyone in the field but it was a stark reminder against the catalogue of successes in care research shared at the Summit.
Organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society, the NIHR and the ESRC are already beginning to fill this gap through initiative such as the ‘Applied Research Collaborations’ which across the UK have played a key role here improving outcomes for people affected by dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society, is committed to redoubling our efforts to overcome challenges to implementation.
Specific funding such as Alzheimer’s Society Implementation scheme has supported other successes such as STrAtegies for RelaTives (START) but there is much more to be done.
During the Care Summit, there is a real desire to see greater collaboration across the field, build opportunities to support sharing of knowledge and data to maximise the impact of care research.
The passion and drive of researchers working in the field of care research was evident.
A number of different models were discussed during the day including collaborative efforts in the form of a network that would tackle specific dementia care research challenges such as data sharing, capacity building, career development and driving implementation.
Discussions at the Summit recognised that there is already well developed infrastructure in place that could be utilised to support high quality, collaborative care research such as the UK Dementia Research Institute and Dementias Platform UK.
There was also great interest, both in the room and online, in the National Cancer Research Institute's model presented by Dr Ian Lewis which convenes 19 multi-disciplinary and disease specific groups with scientific, consumer and funding representatives across 70 work streams.
Discussions focused on whether this model might form the basis of a similar approach in the field of dementia care research.
The bigger picture
Prior to the election in December 2019, the Conservatives pledged to double dementia research spending over the next decade to £1.6 billion which in practise, means an additional £800million of desperately needed funds.
The Care Summit highlighted the true impact that dementia care research, when implemented effectively and comprehensively could have across the UK.
Alzheimer’s Society has called on the government to commit to, not only greater investment in biomedical research to develop life-changing treatments and diagnostics, but also to commit to funding health and social care research that addresses the challenges people living with dementia are facing today.
Maximising the 'Dementia Moonshot'
Read more about our recommendations to the government for dementia research funding.
Alzheimer’s Society is the largest charitable funder of dementia care research in the UK and supports a balanced portfolio of research.
We will continue to work with the NIHR and ESRC to ensure that care research remains firmly on the political agenda alongside high quality biomedical research.
Following the Summit, Alzheimer’s Society has reflected on the great value in bringing this community together and will ensure that this is not the last Dementia Care Research Summit. We look forward to working with both our delegates and online attendees and continuing these valuable discussions.