It is Dementia Action Week, and through our collaboration with the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex, we are pleased to support research and innovation for dementia health and care. Kath Sykes, Implementation Lead, summarises the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for dementia health and care in our region.

With our ageing population, Dementia is a national challenge to our health and care system and society as a whole. This is a particular concern for geographical areas like Kent, Surrey and Sussex, as highlighted in the Chief Medical Officers Annual Report 2023, Health in an Ageing Society. Older and ageing adults disproportionately live in rural and coastal areas, which are also challenging areas to deliver health and care in community settings.

While the King’s Fund has recently highlighted that dementia is an ideal position to benefit from integrated care systems working, this will only be possible if and when it is seen as a priority by the wider health and care system that it relies on.

The last couple of years have increased hope for better diagnosis and treatment, and the next few years will be transformative from a diagnostic and treatment perspective, with AI-supported imaging, biomarkers, and new treatments on the horizon for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are significant challenges for delivery ahead, and the complex care needs of this population will still need to be met longer term.

The cost of dementia has always been high, in particular from a personal, informal and social care perspective, but alongside increasing numbers of cases, these advances in treatments will shift and increase the cost to health services as highlighted by the Alzheimer’s Society 2024 policy and commissioning report.

Dementia is part of the NHE major conditions strategy, as a result of its impact across our health and care system. It is estimated 30% of people in hospital beds and 80% of people in care homes have dementia. It is also the number one cause of death in the UK. Demonstrating that dementia is an across-system and population-wide challenge, and an important focus for our research and innovation.

Though ARC KSS and our OLS function, we are pleased to support a number of studies and innovators that seek to address some of these challenges, varying from improving diagnostics, developing treatments, reducing inequalities, improving quality of life, understanding and improving transfers in care and discharge, optimising integrated care, understanding the needs of people living alone with dementia, end of life care, and exploiting digital to support care through inclusive design.