CATCH member, Dr Rebecca Palmer, has been awarded an NIHR Programme Development Grant to study Communication Partner Training with collaborators.

Dr Rebecca Palmer, has been awarded an NIHR Programme Development Grant to study Communication Partner Training with Cindy Cooper, Laura Flight and Lizzie Coates from the University of Sheffield; Madeline Cruice and Katerina Hilari from City University; Suzanne Beeke from UCL; Caroline Jagoe from Trinity College Dublin; Ian Kellar from University of Leeds; Kate Sudworth PPI representative and conversation partner; Emma Gibbs from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Helen Witts from Derbyshire Community NHS trust.

Here is a brief summary of the research:

What is the problem?
One third of stroke survivors have a communication disorder called aphasia. Aphasia can make it difficult to talk, understand what others are saying, read and write. Patients and family members involved in this proposal expressed how aphasia makes everyday communication difficult: They are less able to understand and support one another and feel frustrated, lonely and sad.

What can we do?
Communication Partner Training is a therapy that aims to improve communication between people with aphasia and their family members/communication partners. Few NHS patients are currently offered Communication Partner Training (CPT). The people with aphasia and family members we talked to from across the UK felt that CPT would help make everyday life easier, more enjoyable and feel more normal.

What is the evidence for CPT?
There have been several small studies that show CPT might help. However, we don’t have enough evidence on how effective it is. Also, the CPT therapy has not been documented in enough detail for speech and language therapists to provide it in practice.

What do we propose for a future Programme Grant for Applied Research?
In a future programme of research work we plan to create a CPT programme and manual for its delivery in the NHS. We will co-design it with people with aphasia, family members, therapists and researchers. We will then see whether it is acceptable, feasible to deliver in the NHS and whether it is possible to conduct a larger study. A large study would be planned across several NHS speech and language therapy departments in the UK to determine how effective it is and to understand how best to make it available to patients in the NHS.

What do we need to do now?
To prepare for such a research programme we need to understand what the components of CPT need to be. We also need to know what outcomes are most important to people and which assessments we should use to measure these. We will look at the CPT literature and describe components that have been used before. We will offer explanations for how these components help people with aphasia and their communication partners change the way they communicate. People with aphasia, communication partners, NHS speech and language therapists and CPT researchers will be asked to rank the most important components. The same groups of people will also be asked to agree what outcomes of CPT are most important. We will then identify assessments that best measure these outcomes for the future studies. People with aphasia and communication partners will be involved both as participants and as project advisors throughout.

Using the results of this work we will: 1) publish the components of CPT and how they are thought to work to lead to the changes people with aphasia and communication partners want, 2) design and apply for funding of the future research programme.