I first interviewed Professor Sube Banerjee on my podcast in November 2020, when unbeknown to us, we were about to have our Christmas celebrations ambushed by Covid. His chat was stimulating, thought-provoking, energetic and creative. It was also full of hope, just like him. In fact, I gave the podcast the title, The Professor of Hope, which many listeners loved.
Sube Banerjee led the development of the UK’s first national dementia strategy in 2009. It constituted a huge step towards changing the way the condition is viewed by both Government and public and the professor was determined that it should be crafted and informed by those who really understand dementia, that is the people living with it and their families.
Over the next decade or so the Professor has never lost his enthusiasm and ability to inspire, whether as Professor of Dementia and Associate Dean at Brighton and Sussex medical school or, latterly, as Executive Dean of Plymouth University’s cross-disciplinary health faculty.
Back in 2020 we spoke about two of his projects: The first, Time for Dementia, is a complementary training programme for healthcare students of any sort who enter the world of people with dementia and their families by visiting them, in pairs, every term. “They see the world through the eyes of people with dementia, they develop an indignancy,” Professor Banerjee told me. “They develop confidence and competence”.
The second, Radio Me, takes the familiar technology of radio and, using advanced technology, tailors it to the needs of those living with dementia so that it can play calming, personalised music at appropriate times or remind individuals to take their medicine.
Both initiatives were paused during Covid and the Professor and I promised to catch up on them again when life was back to normal. Inevitably, in the intervening period this highly respected clinician and academic (who has a veritable alphabet soup of letters after his name) has come up with a new venture.
DETERMIND considers the inequalities in dementia care thrown up by factors such as ethnicity, sexuality and socioeconomic status. It also examines the impact of earlier rather than later diagnosis. Professor Banerjee strongly believes that it is better to know your diagnosis than not to know so that you can plan for the future. “Knowledge is power”, he says.