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New digital initiative to change outcomes and treatment of dementia across north east London

18 January 2017

A brand new digital health initiative with the potential to reduce pressure on front line services is being developed in north east London. By radically rethinking management of a range of conditions, including dementia, the initiative aims to improve outcomes, reduce demand on the NHS and improve engagement with people’s own health.

The initiative, a result of a partnership between an innovation centre for healthy ageing, Care City, and leading social network, HealthUnlocked, will deliver a new digital social prescription service for GPs and other health professionals to use. The powerful and personal digital recommendation tool will be embedded into GP and health care provider IT systems and provide individuals with a social prescription based on a person’s long term condition and location directly from the electronic patient record. Initially the project will focus on dementia, before rolling out across other conditions.

Care City is one of five national health and social care test beds, and is the only one in London. It spans four boroughs, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. The Care City Innovation Test Bed seeks to test a combination of devices and software alongside new approaches to service delivery and patient participation, to assess whether we can measurably improve the wellbeing and resilience of older people with long term conditions, older people with dementia, and their carers. HealthUnlocked is one of six innovations being tested across this patch.

Social prescriptions have been in use in various forms throughout the NHS for a few years. Usually focusing on signposting to face-to-face community care, this new tool will go much further, by supporting doctors to prescribe a full range of services alongside traditional clinical ones. This will include NHS and social care services, alongside charities and voluntary sector. Additionally, users will be signposted to free peer to peer and expert support on relevant HealthUnlocked online communities that are shown to support people to feel more confident in managing their health, use clinical services less and have more positive reactions with doctors and health professionals.

Over 850,000 people suffer with dementia in the UK and the government has committed to becoming a world leader in dementia care and support for individuals with the condition, their carers and families to live. By automatically signposting and tailoring community support and services at Memory Clinics and GP Surgeries in North East London, the project will open up a whole range of support services to everyone affected by dementia in the Care City area. It has the potential to impact millions of people.

Dr Matt Jameson Evans, Chief Medical Officer of HealthUnlocked said: “Dementia has life limiting consequences and can be a devastating diagnosis. Alongside the personal impact, treatment of the condition puts significant pressure on both carers and the health system. By opening up support and services to those affected by dementia we can dramatically reduce this pressure and give people a far better quality of life by ensuring they have the best type of care, support and treatment from the NHS, social care, voluntary and importantly access to other people going through the same thing.

“This is the first of its kind digitally-advanced service that has the potential to radically change self-management in healthcare, in particular for people with dementia in London.”

John Craig, Chief Executive of Care City commented: “1 in 4 people in hospital beds in our Borough have dementia and 66 per cent of people with dementia are supported by unpaid carers. We are identifying and developing innovations to help these people to live happier, more independent lives, reducing the strain on carers and the health system. We are delighted to be collaborating with HealthUnlocked to help achieve this goal”.

HealthUnlocked is the third largest health website in the UK and in the top 20 health websites globally. With over 500,000 members and around 40 million users per year, it contributes to improving health outcomes and patient activation through use of its online health and wellbeing communities, that provide dedicated help, support and information for patients. Working with the NHS, their artificial intelligence (AI) recommendation engine provides personalised self-care recommendations designed to engage individuals with their health and improve outcomes.

For more information about this innovation, visit HealthUnlocked.