Bath Voice Health News: the Clinical Research Fellow and Academic Geriatrician Dr Cathy Wernham on the work on dementia at the RICE centre in Bath

By Harry Mottram: Recently the Mission Theatre in Bath staged the Florian Zeller play The Father which has as its main theme dementia – as the eponymous character’s personality slowly shifts into a twilight zone where memory and moods are affected.
The theatre held a collection after each performance for The Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) based in the RUH.
RICE is an internationally renowned research and treatment centre as well as an independent charity focused on essential research and providing support for people with dementia and other conditions of older age, their families and carers; dedicated to improving the quality of life of everyone involved.
The play at the Mission had pricked my interest and so intrigued I visited their HQ to chat to Dr Cathy Wernham, Clinical Research Fellow and Academic Geriatrician about the work they do.
“I have two jobs here, one is with the memory clinic and the other is in research where we do a lot of exciting work,” she said, “I was working at Batheaston as a GP and partner at a practice and we did some research with older folk and I found it enjoyable and interesting.”
The work sparked her interest and so the Bathonian switched to RICE to help in the pioneering work. Currently there are three clinical research trials running at RICE.

Local people with mild dementia or mild cognitive impairment are welcome to apply to RICE to take part in these trials free of charge. They can contact RICE at’
Back to the trials: there is the Evoke trial (with the Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk); Autonomy trial (with Belgium based Janssen); and the Envision trial (with Biogen from Massachusetts) – so clearly an international effort in the research which will only grow as the population lives longer.
And that is reflected in the increase in the number of patients being referred to RICE via their GPs.
One of the things Melissa Hillier, CEO at RICE wanted to stress was their rating as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission who judge standards in the medical field. She showed me around the centre – a modern and stylish three storey building on the RUH campus with its waiting room, therapy rooms, gardens and clinical research area. All very impressive as clearly this is a centre of international importance. And dare I say it a facility that many of us of a certain age may well be grateful for its work in the future.

How it works: patients are usually referred to RICE by their GP. The GP may conduct blood tests before referral to check other potential causes of memory problems. They may also order a head CT scan. RICE checks the test results and at that point the patient enters the Memory Clinic Cathy spoke about. Patients take thinking tests she explained and a medical history is built up as the patient is examined. A likely diagnosis is arrived at and a suggested treatment set in train which include follow up appointments. It’s all very friendly and welcoming for a period in a patient’s life which is inevitably unwelcome.
With Hollywood star Bruce Willis recently diagnosed with dementia and the news of break through drugs like Lecanemab – the development of the condition is a subject set to see further research news and understanding. For more on RICE

The photograph shows from left Marianne Roots, Memory Clinic Nurse and Research Nurse, Dr Cathy Wernham, Clinical Research Fellow and Academic Geriatrician and Melissa Hillier, CEO at RICE.

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