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Practices, attitudes, and outcomes for patients with memory complaints but no dementia diagnosis following memory clinic assessments.


Project Description

Applications are invited for a 3-year fully funded PhD studentship based at the Centre for Dementia Studies, Neuroscience Division, Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) at the University of Sussex Campus. The project closely maps onto one of the dementia themes of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Sussex and Surrey (ARC KSS) and is co-funded by the NIHR. The NIHR is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research and provides the people, facilities and technology that enables research to thrive. The 15 NIHR ARCs, part of a £135 million investment by the NIHR to improve health and care, support applied health and care research that meets the needs of local populations and local health and care systems. The regional challenges of the ARC KSS include coastal town social deprivation, high GP to patient ratio, large proportion of older people and the highest concentration of people living with dementia in the UK (https://www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/research-arc-kss).
The project:

The past decade has witnessed a rapid increase in referrals to memory assessment clinics. Many patients present with complaints not leading to dementia diagnosis. Mild cognitive impairment, age associated memory decline and subjective memory complaints are now diagnosed in a significant number of patients. These non-dementia patients are usually discharged back to their GPs with some being re-referred after short intervals, while others are lost to follow-up until significant memory deterioration or at times of crises. Longitudinal cognitive and imaging outcomes of these patients have been studied, but much less is known about the factors influencing initial and subsequent referrals and the views, attitudes, practices and quality of life for such patients. Understanding these is important to inform practice and to develop strategies and enhanced care pathways for support and to address future health needs.


The study will try to identify triggers for referrals/re-referrals, and outcomes such as subjective and objective cognitive worsening. Further, evaluation of patients’ views, practices, attitudes including hopes and fears, quality of life and preventative life-style action undertaken will also be evaluated.
The project will utilise a mixed methodology approach comprising two phases:1) The student will recruit over a one-year period 75 discharged patients with no dementia diagnosis from the memory clinics. Initial assessment data will be obtained from electronic records (care notes). Patients will be followed up for 12 months to record a host of outcomes including cognitive status, lifestyle and work changes, quality of life measures, activity levels, GP/hospital visits and mental/physical health parameters. The data will be subjected to analysis by the student to identify factors associated with cognitive, physical and mental health decline. 2) A representative sample of 20 patients will be selected for more intense face to face qualitative interviews to shed light on the hopes and fears of patients, the impact of their non-dementia diagnosis on their well-being and social interactions, and the potential triggers for re-referrals as perceived by patients.
Supervision and training:
This PhD studentship will provide the student with experience and transferable skills in many aspects of dementia research, especially those anchored in clinical practice. It will specifically offer the student a thorough understanding of the psychological and social factors post memory assessment and diagnosis. The PhD student will gain experience in mixed methodology research combining traditional data analysis with targeted qualitative techniques. The student will lead on all aspects of the PhD project under close supervision leading to publications. Lead supervision will be provided by Dr Naji Tabet, NIHR ARC KSS Dementia theme Lead and Director of Centre for Dementia Studies, BSMS. An excellent record exists of successful PhD studies completion and relevant post-doc placements. The student will also benefit from a strong co-supervisory team from NIHR ARC KSS academics:
Dr Elizabeth Ford, Prof Jenny Rusted, Prof Harm van Marwijk and Dr Jo Armes. The student be placed in a supportive and academically rewarding research environment working alongside other PhD students and post-doctoral fellows.
Entry Requirements

Applicants should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, or a related biomedical sciences subject.

Enquiries and applying

Please address informal enquiries to Dr Naji Tabet, Dementia Theme Lead, NIHR ARC KSS () or BSMS Doctoral and Research Office ().

Funding Notes

This is one of a two fully funded three-year PhD studentships. Stipends, university fees, travel and conference expenses, and consumables are jointly funded by NIHR ARC KSS and BSMS. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply (home fees will be paid for UK/EU citizens; non-UK/EU citizens will be liable for the difference in fees between the rate for home (EU) students and the overseas student rate).

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