A ground-breaking online service has been launched to help people with memory problems, offering not just assessment and diagnosis, but treatment and dementia prevention.
MemoryClinix connects patients with leading psychiatrists who conduct their assessment over video link, where the patient is also invited to take a cognitive test.
It is believed to be the first memory clinic to also offer dementia prevention.
Following any required CT head scan and dementia blood screening, patients meet their psychiatrist online again for their results and diagnosis, and where they also receive a personalised care plan adapted to their needs.
The clinical lead for MemoryClinix is Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Liana Borza, who heads up a team of psychiatrists specialising in dementia and memory issues. Dr Borza is also a clinical teacher at the Centre for Psychiatry at Imperial College London.
Dr Borza believes MemoryClinix differs from other UK dementia care services, by offering a prevention service and aftercare to people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
“What happens in a standard cognitive impairment and dementia service is, after assessment, if a patient is diagnosed with dementia, then a care plan is formulated. However, if they have MCI, they are sent back to primary care with no intervention,” said Dr Borza.
“The goal of MemoryClinix is to help people live well with dementia and live well with MCI, but also to reduce their lifestyle-related dementia risk factors. We are also offering our support to the family carers of people with dementia, so they can also have a good quality of life.”
Public Health England has committed to reducing the incidence of dementia, which currently costs the UK around £26.3 billion annually, according to Alzheimer’s Society – higher than the cost of cancer, heart disease, or stroke.
In the UK, more than one million people could have dementia by 2025. By 2050, this figure is predicted to exceed two million.
Reducing the risk of dementia not only saves money for the health and social care system, it helps people to live longer, healthier lives.
Government reports say around 40% of dementia cases may be attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors, which include stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, poor diet and high cholesterol. A 20% reduction in risk factors per decade could reduce UK prevalence by 16.2% (300,000 cases) by 2050.
MemoryClinix is a service operated by Psychiatry-UK, which itself is a partnership run by GMC registered specialist doctors working in both the NHS and the private sector. Psychiatry-UK provides services to the NHS and is regulated by the CQC.
Through MemoryClinix’s interventions and aftercare, people will be helped to modify their lifestyle-related risk factors, and so will be referred to a multidisciplinary team of specialists who collaborate with Psychiatry-UK, and who can advise on areas such as stress, nutrition, physical exercise and smoking.
Patients who are diagnosed with dementia will also be offered pharmacological treatment, such as medication, but also non-pharmacological interventions, such as cognitive stimulation therapy (which can be delivered online) and occupational therapy (delivered locally, to the patient) where appropriate.
NHS data shows the number of people who were assessed for dementia fell to less than half the level before the pandemic – 10,535 in February 2021 compared to 23,392 in February 2020. In that time, the number of people receiving an initial memory assessment fell by two-thirds, while the number of referrals to memory clinics – which help diagnose dementia – fell by 42%.
Dr Borza added: “By offering our service online, we can see more people, as there will be no commute time and no waiting lists. Patients will also feel less anxious if they are not being seen in a hospital setting, and this can have a positive impact on their performance at cognitive testing.”