More people than ever before are taking part in dementia research studies, according to figures from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Funded by the Department of Health, the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) has released figures showing that recruitment into dementia studies in England has increased by 13% over the last 12 months. The NIHR CRN ensures that research studies are set up and delivered quickly in the NHS.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is now the fifth highest recruiter among all NHS trusts in the country. This marks a remarkable improvement, after coming 34th in the trust league table the previous year.

Commenting on this increase, Dr Rupert McShane, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the Dementias and Neurodegeneration (DeNDRoN) specialty in the Thames Valley during this time, said:  “This fantastic success reflects the emphasis our trust – from clinicians to Board – puts on clinical research activity. It is also encouraging to see the range of studies in which people with dementia are participating. Among these, the highest recruiting study is WHELD, led by Jane Fossey, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist. This is a trial of person-centred care to improve quality of life for people with dementia living in care homes. Other local studies include a brain-banking project, a study on early diagnosis of dementia and the use of antipsychotic drugs, and a genetic study looking at inherited forms of dementia.

Patients in all parts of our service are reaping the benefits of the quality improvement that follows from research activity.  I hope we can build on this and that experienced clinicians will consider expanding their job plan by taking on a role as principal investigator.”

The CRN’s figures show that clinical research studies are now being done across more NHS trusts than ever before, making it easier for people to participate in research wherever they live.  There are now more than 200 NHS trusts undertaking dementia research compared with less than 70 five years ago.

Professor Ian McKeith, National Clinical Lead for Dementias and Neurodegeneration research at the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said: “This is an exciting time and the response of the NHS to the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia is really encouraging.  We are seeing better networking between trusts at a local level which means more people using a NHS service have the opportunity to join studies including those running in neighbouring services. This means that people with dementia can benefit from a wider range of research options. 

A 13% increase in participation is fantastic news, and we will continue to work hard to further increase the opportunities for patients to participate in research. The recent re-organisation of the NIHR Clinical Research Network into 15 new local networks has given further impetus to this networking of dementia research, and the initial response of these new local networks to the dementia challenge has been encouraging.