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It is hoped prescribing activities such as gardening will enable people living with dementia to live as well as possible. 

£2.6 million to fund largest ever study into social prescribing for dementia

A new study will investigate how social prescribing could be used in promoting a higher quality of life for people living with dementia, through a £2.7 million funding grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and is the largest intervention development and evaluation of social prescribing to date. 

Social prescribing is a prescription of activities for a person to use to link with others and undertake something they might enjoy. This could be a walking or singing group, flower arranging class, visit to a museum or putting them in touch with other people to help them feel better. There is recognition of significant health benefits of social prescribing in long term illnesses.

Chris Fox, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Exeter, who is co-leading the study with Dr Jane Cross, said: “Social Prescribing for people with dementia is a really promising area of treatment in supporting people to live as well as possible with the condition. We’re excited to investigate the benefits of social prescribing.”

The study – called Social Prescribing for people to Live ENjoyably with Dementia/memory problems In Daily life (SPLENDID) - aims to understand how social prescribing could be tailored to fit around the person’s own interests and hobbies – making the activities prescribed truly personalised.

Jane Cross, Associate Professor at the University of East Anglia, said: “Living well with dementia is so important for both the person with dementia and their friends and family to keep them connected with the world and other people”

The project commences in October and will last over five years. Key to the study is the trial of three new technologies: a patient focused app, online dashboard for GPs, enabling them to easily monitor their patient’s record of activities, and tech for coaches who work with people to access local sources of support.

The researchers will engage in a broad discussion with people with dementia, family carers and staff working in social prescribing to understand what people want, what works well and what could be improved. Next, the team will design tools based on what works best in social prescribing.

Nearly one million people in the UK will be living with the effects of dementia by 2030 including poor well-being and quality of life – findings from the study will shape the future of dementia care.

Partners of the study include the National Academy for Social Prescribing, the social prescribing network and UK technology firms: Evergreen life, Eclipse, and Elemental.

Date: 21 November 2022