New policy research unit to improve dementia prevention, diagnosis and care

Two British universities have announced the creation of a new policy research unit to improve dementia prevention, diagnosis and care.

The new Dementia and Neurodegeneration Policy Research Unit (DeNPRU) will be co-led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the University of Plymouth.

a neon display of a man's head and brain

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has provided £2.99m to fund the unit for three years.

Work at the unit will start in January 2024, under co-directors Professor Claudia Cooper of QMUL and Professor Sube Banerjee of the University of Plymouth.

Around 885,000 people in the UK live with dementia, but this number is expected to double within 25 years without major change in availability of preventative strategies. The costs of dementia in the UK, currently mostly attributable to social care, will also increase from £23bn in 2015 to an estimated £80.1bn in 2040.

The new unit will work with policymakers to produce research to answer four key questions on dementia and neurodegenerative disease:

  • How policy can help prevent these diseases by addressing risk factors
  • How to improve people’s experience of a diagnosis and ensure good quality ongoing care for everyone
  • How technology and the way services are provided can support everyone with these diseases to receive care designed to meet individual needs
  • How to build a workforce with the right skills and positive attitudes towards people with these diseases

For each question the team will address how to deliver fairer, inclusive services to reduce inequalities, how social care can support people to live the lives they want to lead beyond medical care, how to conduct research serving all communities, including involving those with lived experience, and how to provide the best value for patients and society.

The DeNPRU team includes collaborating researchers from University College London, Exeter, Newcastle, Plymouth, Liverpool, and York Universities, Meri Yaadain CiC, Dementia UK and Neurological Alliance. The Alzheimer’s Society is working in partnership with the team.

This group draws on broad experience in deprived inner city and coastal areas across England.

Professor Cooper said: ‘I am excited that QMUL is co-leading with University of Plymouth this national partnership across academic, clinical and lived experience organisations, with its ambitious commitment to drive up the quality of prevention, treatment and care services across dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.

‘We will work with the Department for Health and Social Care to build the evidence base policymakers need to drive more integrated, equitable, user-focused services. We will look especially at how services can be developed so that groups they currently serve less well can benefit equitably from scientific advances.’

Professor Banerjee said: ‘It is brilliant that the Department of Health and Social Care has commissioned our Policy Research Unit to help it develop and deliver the better care for people with dementia other neurodegenerative disorders that is so desperately needed. It is a privilege to co-lead, with Claudia and QMUL, our national network of researchers and clinicians, but above all people with lived experience of these illnesses. Together we can help make policy and services that can transform patient experience, delivering better treatment and support and improving outcomes for all.’

Following the news that more research is being done to help prevent Dementia and support care for the disease, this year new drugs have been trialed and tested to help prevent Alzheimer’s. 

Image: Bret Kavanaugh


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