Current drug treatments, improved care, and more efficient clinical tests for people living with dementia are only available now thanks to previous research studies. To this effect, two objectives of the prime minister’s challenge on dementia 2020 states that every newly diagnosed person should be offered access to research (through Join Dementia Research [JDR]) and that all relevant staff in the care pathway will be able to signpost people to JDR.

The Embedding Research in Care (ERICA) initiative was created to support National Health Services (NHS) commissioners and providers of NHS services to support the development, spread and adoption of sustainable activities that will help achieve these objectives. Through this, the Office of the National Director for Dementia Research (NDDR) has been encouraging the idea of local ownership of the 2020 objectives. The idea behind the ERICA initiative is that local regions will use data to inform regional health communities to develop local plans and milestones (using national tools), while the NDDR office will provide support for the spread and adoption of successful strategies and lessons learnt.

Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) launched as an ERICA exemplar region on the 12th of November 2018, with an event hosted at The Golden Lion Hotel in Northallerton. The ERICA project at TEWV is being co-led by Dr Chris Clarke, Consultant Clinical Psychologist (Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Locality Lead Mental Health Services for Older People – York & Selby) and Dr Mani Krishnan, Consultant Psychiatrist (Lustrum Vale, Stockton-on-Tees), with support from Lauren Roberts, Research Assistant (TEWV). The event was attended by healthcare professionals as well as lay JDR champions.

At the launch of Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust as an ERICA exemplar region

Chris and Krish kicked off the event by providing an overview of the vision for ERICA in TEWV, before sharing data on JDR registrations to date in the region. Sarah Daniel, Research and Development Manager (TEWV), then guided attendees through a thought exercise on how the vision for the ERICA project could be realised. Dr Lakshini Mendis, ERICA project Coordinator – NDDR office, then provided a national overview of the project and some learnings to date, before Lauren highlighted the need for dementia research and current projects happening at TEWV. Robert Banks, who is currently living with dementia, then shared how dementia research improved his quality of life following a diagnosis, underscoring why offering dementia research as part of the care pathway is crucial.

Following a delicious lunch, all the attendees from the various stakeholder groups engaged in possibility thinking and planning exercises to prioritise how the key workstreams of the ERICA project outlined by Chris and Krish could be implemented in each local clinical commissioning group.

Lots of engaging discussion during the afternoon session

Dr Krishnan, who thought the event was a success, shared the following: “We had an engaging and enthusiastic audience who pledged to share information about the ERICA project with their local teams. We are positive this will make a huge difference in recruiting patients for research and engaging with JDR.”

Dr Clarke, shared Dr Krishnan’s enthusiasm, adding that although TEWV covers a very large geographical region, it was heartening that clinicians and managers from different areas prioritised the event and were able to attend. He also highlighted that they “were also privileged to be joined by people living with dementia who have used our services and their care partners. We asked a lot of the people who came along because a key aim for us is to incorporate their feedback and ideas into our project planning and also to seek stakeholder feedback as we progress. As well as setting the scene and providing an overview of the project and dementia research projects currently being hosted in TEWV, we used a coaching approach to consider further possibilities for the project as a group and set specific goals for ourselves (and our respective teams) in line with overall aim of boosting sign-up to JDR to 25% of people diagnosed with dementia. The input of experts by experience, in particular Robert Banks, who gave an inspiring talk, was invaluable and reinforced the value of facilitating access to dementia research as another part of the care we provide. This spurred us on to plan how, when and where we can raise awareness of Join Dementia Research going forward.”

The team are now collating the rich feedback and ideas generated on the day, which will be incorporated into their project plan and milestones.

Attendees at the launch event