Dr Maria-Paloma Sequeiros Camarinha and Dr Hilary Archer Directors of the Dementia Health Integration Team (HIT), reflect on the team's work and successes in 2018-19.
Since taking over as Dementia HIT co-directors in April 2018, we've been brimming with ideas for how to build on the achievements of our predecessors.
We've expanded the HIT’s membership to include more representatives of dementia services from across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and forged new links with commissioners. A vital function of the HIT is networking and sharing of information through the HIT Exec Group, the Dementia Providers’ Forum, and regional forums including the Southwest Clinical Network, Dementia Improvement Group and the Avon and Somerset Dementia Forum. This led to a key position supporting GP Education Days in March 2019, prior to the launch of new contracts for GP-led dementia diagnosis in North Somerset and South Gloucestershire in April 2019.
In July and August 2018, our black and minority ethnic (BME) working group delivered education sessions at GP practices with a high proportion of patients from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds. Supported through a grant from Alzheimer’s Society, the sessions aimed to raise awareness amongst healthcare staff about risk factors for dementia. The next step is to deliver dementia awareness sessions in faith-led communities in Bristol, with the Bristol Dementia Action Alliance and funding from Bristol Community Health.
One of the HIT’s priorities is to support efforts to encourage more people to get involved in dementia research. Dementia HIT coordinator Julie Clayton and other members organised and attended public events, workshops, Memory Cafés and other groups. We have increased our pool of volunteers involved in research, including through collaboration with the local Alzheimer’s Research UK Bristol and Bath Network of local researchers. We supported a Channel 4 TV series filmed in Bristol, ‘The Restaurant that Makes Mistakes’, to help combat stigma and negative attitudes towards people living with dementia.
We formed a new Join Dementia Research (JDR) planning board, together with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) West of England Clinical Research Network, which helped boost the number of local people signed up to the national JDR register. We have also supported research groups at the University of Bristol and University of the West of England (UWE) in gaining valuable feedback on their ideas from people with experience of dementia. Our survey of attitudes to dementia gained around 10,000 responses from September 2018 to March 2019.
Looking ahead, we have new collaborations underway with other HITs, with an event to explore how carers’ needs can help set the agenda for HITs in future, and a pilot programme of ‘Exercise on Referral’ for people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, to assess the impact of increased physical activity on progression to dementia.
We were awarded £10,000 in funding from Health Education England, for evaluation of the ‘Real Life with Dementia’ training course for carers. This is an essential step in making this national, award winning training programme available to carers across the region, so they can be better equipped when dementia progresses. This will help avert crises which can lead to hospital admissions, a key goal of the NHS Long Term Plan.