According to the Alzheimer’s Society, over 850,000 in the UK suffer from some form of dementia. This equates to 1 person being diagnosed every 3 minutes. The disease describes several brain disorders, more common in those over the age of 65, with memory loss and confusion amongst the primary symptoms. Alzheimer’s effects 62% of those with dementia, making it the most common form of the illness. Others include vascular dementia and mixed dementia. In 2017, dementia was the primary cause of death in the UK (ONS) resulting in 67,000 passing away – 7,000 more than in 2015.
As the cost of care can be a great burden on a patient’s family, many take on unpaid carer roles, saving the economy £11bn a year (Alzheimer’s Society). While this improves the quality of life for patients, there can still be an absence of the correct support and knowledge. This was one of the reasons Professor Louise Robinson felt the need to begin research into care given to people suffering with the illness.
Whilst training to be a GP, Robinson realised a significant amount of funding was being invested into cancer research, but the opposite was happening with dementia, for which there was no cure. Although significant research has aided the development of new drugs to improve quality of life and slow down the progression of the illness, the care available to patients is not equal across the country.
Therefore, research into a ‘sustainable and feasible’ care pathway being delivered by GPs is at the forefront of the University’s project. Robinson wants to ensure GPs have the “knowledge and resources to deliver good quality care”. After gaining several grants and establishing a well-respected dementia research centre, the Alzheimer’s Society announced Newcastle University as one of three ‘Centres of Excellence’ in June 2017. In addition, they were granted £1,680,224. This will allow focused research in priority areas within dementia care.
It is hoped the Institute can drive improvements in medication and care for the illness which not only effects the individual, but the ones closest to them. Having experienced the effects first-hand, I welcome projects such as this one in the hope we find a possible cure in the future.