Growing evidence suggests that addressing lifestyle risk factors in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) could improve their brain health and reduce their risk of developing dementia. Unfortunately, this important window of opportunity to reduce dementia risk and improve well-being is missed in existing clinical pathways in the United Kingdom (UK), where diagnosis and treatment of MCI is often insufficient to prompt intervention. Indeed, rather than receiving extra support to prevent progression to a form of dementia, those with MCI are commonly discharged without follow-up and asked to “watch and wait” for their condition to deteriorate. This lack of provision and support means that many people with MCI are left feeling abandoned by our health system and increasingly anxious about their future. The UK hosts a scheme, known as social prescribing, which links health and social care sectors with charity and voluntary partners to provide holistic support and improve equity for patients with complex health needs. Through this scheme, people are empowered to manage their health through education, care planning, and community/social inclusion. Although the scheme has shown benefits for many individuals, it is yet to be tried for people with MCI or dementia.
This project will work closely with several partners (including people with MCI, clinicians, and social prescribers) to tailor existing social prescribing materials, networks, and protocols to support those with MCI. This novel MCI-focused social prescribing protocol (which we call “brain health navigation”) will be implemented, embedded, and evaluated as an addition to an existing clinical pathway for MCI patients in Greater Manchester. Eligible patients will receive a one-to-one appointment with a Brain Health Navigator, during which they will be signposted to resources that suit their needs, and which could, in turn, reduce or delay their risk of developing dementia. Resources will take two forms: 1. Education: information materials and a personalized brain health action plan 2. Signposting to local community assets. If the intervention proves to be effective and sustainable, we will expand the protocol across Greater Manchester and beyond, providing support for a population in the north of England who are disproportionately affected by ill health and dementia.