Putting the D in R&D

Care and cure magazine - Winter 2014

By Malayka Rahman, Research Translation Manager

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The knowledge generated by dementia researchers is impressive, but for that knowledge to make a difference it must be used in practice. We need to mobilise research knowledge, move it out of the realms of academia and into the hands ofpeople with dementia, carers, commissioners, doctors, nurses, care workers and Alzheimer's Society staff andvolunteers.

Much is already being done to enable the discovery and creation of new knowledge about dementia, as well as the development of new or improved medicines and diagnostic tools. But the Society recognises the gap between research knowledge and practice, something that our Development function is working hard to remedy.

One example of successful research development is the FITS (Focused Intervention Training and Support) project. FITS is an evidence-based training programme for care home staff that aims to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in people with dementia. FITS was funded by the Society from its 'proof of concept' stage, where training was carried out across 12 care homes to test whether the idea would work.

Impressively, the programme was shown to reduce the use of antipsychotics by 40 per cent in comparison to usual care, without worsening behavioural symptoms.

Once the project came to an end, the baton was taken up by another group of leading researchers. To test its effectiveness, FITS was scaled up and delivered to 67 care homes across the UK. The result was an impressive 30 per cent reduction in inappropriate antipsychotic drug prescription in people with dementia.

There are many components to putting research into practice, one being effective dissemination. This is getting the right messages to the right people at the right time, increasing the chances of new knowledge being used. The researchers and Research Network members involved in FITS have been hard at work sharing the findings to help improve care. Most recently FITS featured at the annual Alzheimer's Europe conference, this year's UK Dementia Congress and the G7 meeting in Osaka, Japan.

Now we're also taking an active role in exploring how to make FITS available to care homes across the UK. There are lots of strategies that are needed to enable uptake of knowledge including ways to change personal, professional and organisational behaviour. A great deal of work is also needed to understand how to do this effectively.

We all play important roles in making the best use of research knowledge, whether it's spreading the word or campaigning. Together, we can further enable research to make a positive impact on the lives of people affected by dementia.