Brain Health Clinics: a model to revolutionise dementia care
Brain Health Clinics (BHCs) are combined clinical and research services that have the potential to revolutionise NHS memory services. BHCs aim to prepare the health system for the future of dementia treatment and prevention.
The Oxford BHC is led by Prof Clare Mackay, who also leads WIN's Translational Neuroimaging group. The Oxford BHC is a pilot project that aimed to evaluate the feasibility of this model, with a view to future scaling across the NHS. The Oxford BHC takes patients referred to one local memory clinic as part of the usual patient pathway. Patients can opt in to attend the BHC and have access to higher quality memory assessments and imaging, as well as the opportunity to participate in research studies and trials. The results of the pilot have been hugely successful, with 93.5% of patients consenting for their data to be used in research, and consultant memory clinic appointment times reduced from 75 to 45 minutes, as well as more clinicians feeling more confident in the accuracy of their diagnosis.
Following on from the success of the Oxford BHC pilot, the team were keen to explore the scalability of BHCs and understand the national appetite for BHC adoption, given there are a number of similar models operating across the UK. A Public Policy Challenge Fund from the Oxford Policy Engagement Network allowed the team to partner with Alzheimer’s Research UK to explore the policy impact. The six-month project delivered a strategy for policy engagement with key stakeholders and activities identified. The project also developed effective communication strategies for stakeholders and identified the main barriers and opportunities associated with the set-up of new BHCs. In collaboration with the Trial Delivery Framework being set up by Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), the project delivered a workshop on 6th June 2022 that brought together established and aspiring BHC teams for collaborative discussion and ideas around how we can better enable the set-up of new BHCs. The workshop delivered two infographics that explored "How can we facilitate expansion of the Brain Health Clinic network?" and "How do we define success in Brain Health Clinics?".
Dr Vanessa Raymont, DPUK Associate Director and Lead for the Trial Delivery Framework and R&D Director of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It was great to bring together established and aspiring Brain Health Clinic teams to discuss how we can work together to enable to set-up of further Brain Health Clinics. The involvement of Alzheimer’s Research UK and the policy levers they can pull as we transform dementia diagnosis and treatment, as well as support clinical trial delivery, is vitally important and we’re looking forward to a continued collaboration with them.”
The project also provided Alzheimer's Research UK with a unique insight into the BHC model through a visit to see the Oxford BHC in action. Dr Isolde Radford, Policy Manager at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “Brain Health Clinics like the one at Oxford could be an important part of the solution to the current and future challenges we face in understanding, diagnosing and treating the diseases that cause dementia. Our work with this project allowed us to collaborate with emerging Brain Health Clinics from across the UK to explore the measures and support they need to thrive. We can help frame these calls for change in terms that will help galvanise action from policy makers and government."
The Oxford BHC team plan to implement their policy engagement strategy and continue their partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK. The team hope that policy engagement can support the scaling of BHCs across the country to provide a vessel to quickly translate state-of-the-art research gains into the clinic, whilst simultaneously facilitating research with real-world clinical data and access to patients for clinical trials.
Alzheimer’s Research UK released a policy report in September 2023 titled ‘Tipping Point: The Future of Dementia’ calling for the government to tackle the increasing pressure that Dementia places on society, the NHS and the economy. The report includes Brain Health Clinics as a potential solution, and highlights the Oxford Brain Health Clinic as its exemplar.
The Oxford BHC is funded by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre with input from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and is a collaboration between Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford.