News & Latest 02.04.2023

Introducing our Dementia Postdoctoral Researchers - The DEM COMM programme

NIHR ARC East of England are thrilled to welcome our Dementia Postdoctoral Researchers whose projects will improve services and care for people living with dementia and who will benefit from increased funds to develop their careers.

Introducing our Dementia Postdoctoral Researchers

Our Dementia Postdoctoral Researchers: Clare Hammerton, Dr Anna Jane Dreyer, Greg Windle, Dr Smruti Bulsari and Dr Tamara Backhouse (Left - right). This image excludes two other fellows who will be starting in April 2023.

Dementia remains a challenge for all affected by it, including health and social care services. In the UK, almost 1million people have a diagnosis of dementia, and this figure is predicted to rise to 1.6million in 2050. This means that about 52% of the UK public know someone who has been diagnosed with a form of dementia (1).

Pursuing a cure is one of the key goals of dementia research. However, until an effective pharmacological treatment is identified, we need to be able to provide appropriate non-pharmacological treatments and support to those affected by a diagnosis of dementia, including their family members. Providing appropriate non-pharmacological treatments and support can only be done through evidence-based research.

In 2022, NIHR ARC East of England received £486,000 from a national funding award to support early career researchers working on applied health and care research for dementia.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, awarded the funding across all 15 NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs). The aim of this funding is to support the new generation of dementia research leaders, bringing together researchers from different multidisciplinary backgrounds to encourage cross-cutting and community-orientated dementia research projects that can address key gaps in the evidence base.

There will be 45+ researchers across the country in this new programme, DEM COMM. The DEM COMM programme is led by Dr Ruth Bartlett, from ARC Wessex, and includes a range of bespoke training opportunities for the cohort over the two years.

We are absolutely delighted to welcome our seven DEM COMM fellows to the ARC East of England. We would not have been able to multiply this offer of postdoctoral jobs without the generous support from our university partners, and the partnership with the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (Eastern AHSN). 

Professor Eneida Mioshi, NIHR ARC East of England Academic Career Development Lead

Collaborating with our partner universities

ARC East of England, working with its four university partners: University of Cambridge/Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, University of Hertfordshire, University of East Anglia and University of Essex, secured additional funding for this dementia postdoctoral programme. By combining funding from NIHR, Alzheimer’s Society and our universities, we have been able to recruit four additional fellows (7 in total) to lead the way for the next generation of dementia research. Our regional cohort is led by Professor Eneida Mioshi, our NIHR ARC East of England Academic Career Development Lead. 

The co funding model for researchers working in Dementia has provided important opportunities for early career researchers to continue to research in their chosen area of Dementia, a key area of need at a regional and national level. These posts have supported capacity building and add considerably to the quantity and quality of research we are undertaking in Dementia.

Professor Vicky Joffe, Dean of School of Health and Social Care at University of Essex

One of the highlights of ARC East of England regional programme is the additional training in implementation, led by the Eastern AHSN. This means that our postdocs will have additional tools at the end of their fellowships, ensuring they are well equipped to lead their research findings into implementation and encourage their research into everyday practice.

Having worked as a Clinical Psychologist with older adults, including those with dementia, I know how important it is to incorporate the latest research into practice. That’s why it’s so essential that we build implementation planning into research, to ensure that research and expertise translate into reality and keep healthcare moving forwards.

Dr Sarah Robinson, NIHR ARC East of England Implementation Lead, Eastern AHSN Director of Delivery

Introducing our fellows

Our seven postdoctoral researchers are exploring a range of areas in applied dementia research. Our fellows are:

  • Dr Tamara Backhouse joined ARC East of England at the University of East Anglia as a fellow in November 2022. Dr Backhouse is working on research to improve personal care interactions and reduce refusals of care for people living with advanced dementia. 
  • Greg Windle joined ARC East of England as a fellow at the University of Hertfordshire in February 2023. He is investigating interactions between acute care, community care and home care for dementia-friendly communities. 
  • Dr Anna Jane Dreyer joined ARC East of England as a fellow in March 2023 and is working on a project in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. Her project will investigate the effect of deprivation in the dementia syndromes associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Parkinson's disease.  
  • Dr Clare Hammerton joined as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, University of Essex in March 2023. Her research is at the early stages of development and will focus on meaningful involvement of people and carers, the impact of arts and culture, collaborative multi-agency partnerships and holistic community models of support.   
  • Dr Fiona Scheibl joined ARC East of England at the University of East Anglia as a fellow in April 2023. Fiona is interested in exploring what supports older people living with dementia to be involved in decisions around their re-location into residential care.
  • Dr Smruti Bulsari joined ARC East of England at the University of Essex, as a Research Fellow in April 2023. Smruti plans to explore the dementia care strategies of different countries in the context of dementia prevalence and take an in-depth study around the dementia care strategy in the UK. 
  • We also have another fellow joining the cohort in April 2023. Their project will be included soon.

I am thrilled to be part of DEM-COMM, I have already made connections with several of the other fellows from across the ARCs and am looking forward to our first face-to-face meeting in April 2023. The Dementia Capacity Building Fellow role will enable me to further my research, which focuses on improving personal care interactions for people with advanced dementia, while also developing my career.

Dr Tamara Backhouse, NIHR Dementia Postdoctoral Researcher

What’s next?

The national DEM COMM programme welcome will be taking place in Southampton in late April 2023. Our regional welcome will be taking place in June 2023. We will be updating our website with more information on their projects and the programme in due course.