Of all the dementia initiatives announced by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, this weekend it may prove the pivotal one. It may not grab headlines in the same way as £ commitments to research or new institutes (although it is doing pretty well). But, without it, this expenditure will be worthless.
For other patient populations it will undoubtedly be a model to be copied in galvanising their effort behind similar research of patient benefit.
Fact is, as regular readers of this blog will know, research that could possibly make a difference to health and wellbeing can not happen without the involvement, and in particular the willingness of those people to step forward and volunteer to take part in clinical trials and research studies. As was amply demonstrated by Fergus Walsh’s excellent Panorama programme a few weeks ago.
Today a new online and telephone service launches to enable people with dementia, carers, family – as well as members of the public wanting to support research – to sign-up to participate in future dementia research. The service also enables researchers to identify potential participants for their studies.
Called JoinDementiaResearch you can access the (mobile friendly) website here: https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
The service has been in development for over 2-3 years with people with dementia and their carers fully involved in the design of every aspect. When the Lay Champions Group began its work all that time ago it is difficult to convey the daunting nature of the task that lay ahead of us or its complexity. Giving people a safe and secure way of signing up for research in this way has felt like building a skyscraper on a small plot of land in a crowded city. But the determination was always there and it is in no small part due to the commitment of those champions (many of whom will be speaking to the media today) and also the commitment of the organisations involved, to working in partnership with them,
Today’s launch follows a pilot in North East London which has already demonstrated its exciting potential to enable studies to get up and running. I notice that just in the last twent minutes or so that I have been editing this blog another 200 people have signed-up and the total number has just passed 2000.
So, what can I say, other than: JoinDementiaResearch Now!
Have a great day.
Here’s the full news release…..
Ground-breaking new national service empowers public to take part in vital dementia research
A new nationwide online and telephone service that helps people to take part in dementia research studies launches today (24 Feb 2015). Join Dementia Research promises to accelerate the pace of dementia research by allowing people with and without dementia to register their interest in studies, helping researchers find the right participants at the right time. Join Dementia Research is a collaboration between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland and has been funded by the Department of Health.
Dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK, with 25 million of the UK population having a close friend or family member affected. A new national poll* has shown that almost two thirds of the general public (62%) would be willing to take part in dementia research, but more than four out of five people (81%) wouldn’t know how to volunteer. Join Dementia Research is designed to overcome these barriers and give everyone the opportunity to play a role in changing the outlook for people with dementia now and in the future.
The lack of access to willing volunteers is holding back critical research into the condition with government figures showing that less than 5% of people with dementia take part in research studies. The first of its kind in the UK, this innovative new service will boost research participation by connecting people interested in research to suitable dementia studies across England, Scotland and Wales. After piloting the service in a small region for six months, more than 1,800 people have signed up and already over 200 of them have participated in studies through Join Dementia Research.
The joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk website offers a secure and easy way for someone to register their interest, discover studies that interest them, and ultimately connect with researchers to take part in their studies.
Anyone aged 18 years or over can sign up themselves, or on behalf of someone else, either by registering online or by contacting the helplines of Alzheimer’s Research UK (0300 111 5 111) and Alzheimer’s Society (0300 222 1122). By signing up to the service, people give permission for researchers to contact them with details of studies in their area that match their profile. People can then decide if they would like to participate in those studies on a case-by-case basis. By registering, people do not have to take part in any studies and can opt-out at any time.
Prof Martin Rossor, the NIHR National Director for Dementia Research, said:
“The government and charities have increased funding for dementia research over the last few years, meaning more studies are being done than ever before, but it’s often difficult to find willing volunteers at the right time.
“Join Dementia Research offers a way of ‘match-making’ – linking volunteers to researchers. The system also helps us plan future studies. It’s important that everyone should be able to find out about research that is happening near to where they live and get the opportunity to be part of that research. People can register with Join Dementia Research without being obliged to take part in a particular study, but we hope that the service will expand the pool of willing participants. Growing the number of willing research volunteers will help push forward research to make advances in treatment, prevention and care.”
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said:
“New research is desperately needed to help the growing numbers of people who live with dementia, which is why we’re doubling the size of the funding pot. This is an important initiative, and I encourage anyone who is interested to visit the website or call the charity helplines to find out more about how they can help us tackle dementia.”
Sue Boex, one of the carers who helped design Join Dementia Research, said:
“This is a very exciting initiative, and one we really need people to get behind. Everyone can sign up, whether you have dementia or not, and there are lots of different types of studies to take part in. But because studies have very specific criteria, we need lots of people signing up in order to find the right people for the right study at the right time. I hope that 100,000 people will join the service in the first year. Its an ambitious target, but dementia is a massive problem and we’re ambitious to help make a difference through research.”
Speaking about this new service, Hilary Evans, Director of External Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“As a charity focused on dementia research, we’re acutely aware of the tremendous impact volunteers make on research progress in dementia. We know there is a strong appetite from the public to play a role in dementia research, but until now there hasn’t been an easy and coordinated way for people to register their interest. We’re proud to be supporting Join Dementia Research to give people with dementia and their families the opportunity to be part of pioneering research to improve the lives of everyone affected by this heartbreaking condition.”
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
“We and others are increasing our investment in research to develop better treatments and ultimately a cure for dementia, but finding suitable volunteers to take part in these research studies is a difficult and costly task. This can slow research progress which is unacceptable given the urgent need of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by dementia.
“We’re thrilled to be supporting Join Dementia Research as it will overcome many of these barriers and speed up the ongoing research effort. For people with an interest in dementia research, this innovative new service gives them the best possible chance of finding and taking part in a suitable research study, empowering them to be part of the crucial search for better care today and a cure for the future.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies was appointed Chief Medical Officer:
“This superb initiative was developed to help ensure we can meet the ambitious targets for recruitment to high-quality research studies, set by the Prime Minister in his challenge on dementia. Join Dementia Research is a potential pathfinder for other fields, showing how to boost patient and public participation in research.”
Current research studies range from clinical trials of new treatments to surveys identifying what works in improving the quality of life of people with dementia.