Outgoing Directors Dr Hilary Archer and Dr Maria-Paloma Sequeiros, and coordinator Dr Julie Clayton, provide an update on the 2020-21 activities of the Dementia Health Integration Team (HIT).
Dementia HIT members rose to the challenge of COVID19 during 2020-21, with many stepping up their NHS duties or being redeployed to other roles in hospitals, care homes and community settings across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
The HIT’s activities switched to online, with the Research Workstream led by Dr Rik Cheston at UWE, producing webinars about dementia research for audiences including the wider research community, health and social care professionals and members of the public with experience or interest in dementia. A webinar in June 2020 focused on how dementia research was being affected by COVID19, including the difficulty researchers faced in having to suspend their lab work and clinical trials, and the loss of research funding. And in November 2020 and March 2021 we documented new-found optimism around dementia studies across Bristol and Bath subsequently re-opening and starting up, including on the use of artificial intelligence for dementia diagnosis and the development of a new toolkit for assessment of dementia for South Asian communities.
The Dementia HIT also captured the challenges of adapting care and support services during COVID19 for people with dementia and their carers with an online survey. This highlighted the difficulties of obtaining sufficient personal protective equipment and the stress that staff experienced in both NHS and care home and community settings. It also pointed to the usefulness of online platforms such as Attend Anywhere for online consultations with patients and carers. Members of the BAME Working Group on Dementia were key contributors on this and other consultations on the impacts of COVID19 and health inequalities.
Dementia HIT partners have also found other creative solutions to supporting people with dementia and their carers, such as the South Gloucestershire Dementia Action Alliance Telephone Connect Café and online peer support groups, and the Bristol Dementia Action Alliance online support group and resources. The HIT has also supported public involvement in dementia research at the University of Bath and University of Bristol, on topics such as oral health and dementia, palliative care in hospitals, and urgent care.
The Dementia HIT welcomes new co-Directors: Gary Christopher, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Ageing Well lead (Psychology) at UWE, Rachel Holland, psychiatrist at Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service, and Isobel Jones, CEO of Alive, who look forward to further strengthening HIT partnerships and collaborations.