Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, to lead £250,000 study into the effects of early intervention in CFS

News release issued by the North Bristol NHS Trust, 13 December 2011

The UK’s biggest research study into whether early intervention could lessen the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome is due to get underway at North Bristol NHS Trust in spring 2012.

Frenchay Hospital is one of only 40 specialist NHS centres in the UK for people with chronic fatigue, also known as ME.

The multi-disciplinary team which includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists and clinical psychologists has been at the forefront of developing techniques around changes in behaviour and using exercise to help patients beat the debilitating illness.

Dr Hazel O’Dowd, the clinical psychologist who runs the centre, said: “People with chronic fatigue feel incredibly isolated. The illness can have a dramatic and long-term effect on their life.

“Since setting up in 2003, we have worked with hundreds of patients to improve their lives. We have particularly focused on cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise.

“For example, people with ME have good days and bad. On the good days it is tempting for them to push themselves and then for subsequent days they are so exhausted they can’t do anything at all.

“We teach them to pace themselves, just do a little, building up stamina, changing the way they see themselves.”

The £250,000 study, which has been funded by the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme, is a natural progression from the advances made by the Frenchay team.

Dr O’Dowd explains: “Because of the nature of the illness, it can take upwards of four years for clinicians to diagnose ME and during that time people can go rapidly down hill because they are not getting the right treatment.”

The trial will involve around 100 patients from a selection of local GP surgeries. Doctors will be asked to identify patients they think might be suitable for the trial. These will be patients who have complained of severe fatigue, and after blood tests, no other reason for their tiredness is found.

50 patients will continue to receive care through their GP and the other 50 will be put in touch with the team at Frenchay who will regularly assess their condition and give advice on how to manage the fatigue.

After the two year trial, both sets of patients will be assessed to see if the early intervention in the one patient group made a significant difference to their overall condition.

Dr O’Dowd said: “This is very much a feasibility study but it will provide clinicians with important information around whether early intervention has positive benefits for these patients. We await the results with interest and would like to thank the Research for Patient Benefit programme for their support with our trial.”

Information about the Research for Patient Benefit programme can be found by clicking HERE.


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