Help Stop Dementia in its Tracks
The dementia clinic at the Bristol Brain Centre at Southmead Hospital, led by consultant neurologist Dr Liz Coulthard, sees more than 600 patients every year.

Until now, the clinic has focused on dementia diagnosis and medical management for people living with dementia. This group of patients are then offered the best treatments available which will not stop disease progression and only relieves symptoms in a few patients. For treatments to be more effective, all current and future treatments for dementia should be prescribed before extensive and irreversible damage to the brain has occurred.

For this reason, Dr Coulthard and her team have launched a Mild Cognitive Impairment clinic to identify people at a much earlier stage of Alzheimer’s disease so that interventions can be tested at a point when quality of life can be retained. The team has introduced new tests, such as a lumbar puncture to analyse levels of Alzheimer-related proteins in spinal fluid to offer a more refined diagnosis.

The clinic attracts referrals from Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and further afield – such as Bath, Devon and Gloucestershire. However, once a diagnosis is made the clinic lacks the essential nursing assistance it needs to provide patients with post diagnostic support.

This means that newly diagnosed patients must wait six months or longer for an outpatient appointment with one of the consultants leaving patients without any support post diagnosis causing considerable stress.

A Dementia Research Nurse dedicated to the clinic would be able to see patients at the time or shortly after a diagnosis to discuss questions and options for managing life with dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment. Additionally, a clinic nurse would take care of the routine follow ups to check on medications. This post diagnostic nursing support would also reduce the wait for other patients who need to see one of the consultants.

Funding for a clinic nurse is essential to ensure vulnerable patients receive the best possible care post diagnosis and that they are given the opportunity to participate in important clinical research.  Dementia Research Nurses are not funded by the NHS and so this role requires full charitable support.