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It is time we talked about our senses of smell and taste

Fifth Sense is calling for greater recognition of the impact that smell and taste disorders have on people’s health, wellbeing and safety, along with better services, support and research to help those affected and their families.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the significant health inequalities faced by people affected by smell and taste disorders. More people than ever before have now experienced the life-changing impact on physical and mental health, nutrition, safety and personal relationships, whilst being faced with a lack of knowledge, diagnosis and treatment from the healthcare system. Many people have been left to fend for themselves, sometimes spending money on unproven, ineffective or potentially harmful complementary therapies and treatments they have read about online or in the media.

It’s important for everyone to know that smell and taste dysfunction isn’t limited to Covid-19. Since Fifth Sense was established in 2012 we have led the way in representing the needs of the many people experiencing problems with smell and taste from a wide range of causes. Our work since then has shown that whatever the cause of the problem, people experience the same lack of support, diagnosis and treatment. We recognise that it’s now time to take a big step forward and lead a campaign calling for significant change. It is time we talked about our senses of smell and taste.

Our calls for action:

  • Ensure that everyone in the UK has fast access to a specialist clinic with the development of a network of regional smell and taste clinics

The limited number of specialist clinics means that many people are unable to get early diagnosis and treatment. We want to ensure that everyone in the UK can get a referral to a specialist smell and taste service if they need it and put an end to the current postcode lottery that exists.

  • Ensure that smell testing is routinely undertaken in public health settings to identify all those who need support, information and care  

Regular testing of people’s sense of smell will enable a range of potential problems to be diagnosed sooner and people given support and information to aid their health, wellbeing and safety. It will enable children with congenital anosmia to receive an early diagnosis so they and their parents can be given appropriate support and information.

Routine smell testing can play a key role in monitoring our health as we age, and also aid early diagnosis of neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease. Routine testing leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment has wider benefits too, an important one being that it would provide the potential for the NHS to save money.

  • Widen access to education and training for all health and social care professionals

We want to ensure that all health and social care professionals understand and recognise the impact that smell and taste impairment can have on people and are able to offer appropriate support. This includes people being offered a referral to a specialist smell and taste clinic, dietician or mental health service when they need it, along with appropriate support and information to help them self-manage their condition.

  • Funding for vital research to improve our understanding of the causes of smell and taste dysfunction, develop much-needed new treatments, and find new ways of helping people live well with their condition

At present, treatments for many causes of smell and taste dysfunction are very limited. We need the government and industry to commit to funding research that better understands these causes and develops new ways of treating them.

We also need research to better understand the longer-term impact of smell and taste dysfunction on our health and wellbeing and its role in healthy ageing, and help people live safely and well with their condition

  • A significant increase in recognition of the impact of smell and taste disorders on our health, wellbeing and safety by the government, public and private sectors

We want to ensure that policymakers, public services and industry understand and recognise the life-changing impact of smell and taste impairment so that people get the recognition, understanding and access to support and services they all too often lack. It is time that society recognised the central and essential role that smell and taste play in our lives.

We’re already taking action.

Fifth Sense has started a significant project supported by major funding from Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, to increase awareness of the essential role that our sense of smell plays in our health, wellbeing and safety, and enable people with a poor, altered or no sense of smell to stay safe and well at home. This three-year project will encompass a significant body of activity, with the delivery of support, information and education at its core. We also want to ensure that low-cost natural gas detectors become readily available and routinely used in the same way as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Please get involved and support our vital work

Fifth Sense is a small, yet ambitious and growing charity. We work collaboratively with a wide range of partners across science, academia and the public, private and third sectors. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, and we need support to help us grow, develop and benefit many more people.

Please consider setting up a regular donation to support our vital work. 

You can donate safely and securely via our Just Giving account

Perhaps you’d like to fundraise for Fifth Sense? Whether you want to run a marathon, or hold a cake sale or coffee morning, there’s no challenge too big, or too small, and you can be creative too in doing your own thing! Not only will you raise vital funds for the charity, you’ll also help raise awareness of an unrecognised and marginalised issue. 

Find out more about getting involved here.

All money raised will go into the Fifth Sense Development Fund and help us grow our support and information services, professional education and public engagement activity and support vital research.

Stay in touch

We know what a difference people power can make, and there are going to be plenty of ways to get involved as our campaign develops. Please sign up to our campaign and be kept informed of developments and opportunities by clicking below: 

If you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.
Please get in touch with us at info@fifthsense.org.uk

Thank you for your support.

Stronger together

Partnership working is vital to achieving our goals. We are already collaborating with a range of individuals and organisations including NHS England, leading clinicians and scientists, third sector and community-facing organisations and industry.
We are empowering people with the lived experience to help and support others too; Fifth Sense volunteers are already passing on vital safety advice to people in their own communities.

Fifth Sense is also part of the #WeAreAble campaign, highlighting how smell disorders can make people more vulnerable to dangers such as gas, smoke or spoiled food, and steps that members of our community have taken to stay safe at home. 

Visit weareable.uk to find out more.