Introduction: Persistent physical symptoms (PPS), also known as medically unexplained symptoms are associated with profound physical disability, psychological distress and high healthcare costs. England's annual National Health Service costs of attempting to diagnose and treat PPS amounts to approximately £3 billion. Current treatment relies on a positive diagnosis, life-style advice and drug therapy. However, many patients continue to suffer from ongoing symptoms and general practitioners (GPs) are challenged to find effective treatments. Training GPs in basic cognitive behavioural skills and providing self-help materials to patients could be useful, but availability in primary care settings is limited.
Methods and analysis: A cluster randomised waiting list, controlled trial will be conducted to assess the feasibility of an integrated approach to care in general practice. Approximately 240 patients with PPS will be recruited from 8 to 12 GP practices in London. GP practices will be randomised to 'integrated GP care plus treatment as usual' or waiting list control. Integrated GP care plus treatment as usual will include GP training in cognitive behavioural skills, GP supervision and written and audio visual materials for both GPs and participants. The primary objectives will be assessment of trial and intervention feasibility. Secondary objectives will include estimating the intracluster correlation coefficient for potential outcome measures for cluster effects in a sample size calculation. Feasibility parameters and identification of suitable primary and secondary outcomes for future trial evaluations will be assessed prerandomisation and at 12 and 24 weeks' postrandomisation, using a mixed-methods approach.
Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval was granted by the Camberwell St Giles Ethics Committee. Results will be disseminated via peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. This trial will inform researchers, clinicians, patients and healthcare providers about the feasibility and potential cost-effectiveness of an integrated approach to managing PPS in primary care.
Trial registration number: NCT02444520; Pre-results.
Keywords: cluster randomised controlled trial; cognitive behavioural skills; feasibility; persistent physical symptoms; primary care.
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