Coventry University secures funding to help connect people with brain injuries

Tuesday 15 November 2022

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A new trial aimed at helping people with long-term brain injuries overcome relationship and intimacy issues and improve their sexual wellbeing will be led by Coventry University.

The trial is being hosted by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW), funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) as part of the Research for Patient Benefit scheme.

Dr Hayley Wright of the Centre for Intelligent Healthcare at Coventry University will be leading the trial, known as HOPE4ABI, following an award of over £250,000. The team will co-develop a new ‘peer-support’ intervention – with, and for – people with acquired brain injury (ABI). The goal is to enable people with ABI to support each other online and find ways to manage personal issues.

HOPE4ABI will be based on the Hope Programme, which has helped people with other long-term conditions to improve their mental health and self-management skills.

“The Hope Programme is successful because it allows people in similar situations to come together and talk about their worries and problems. They feel like a burden has been lifted by sharing their concerns with others who are ‘in the same boat’.

“We believe this model can help people to open up about relationship and intimacy issues that are very common after ABI.

“Every 90 seconds, someone in the UK sustains an ABI. For many people, this can cause problems with physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing. In combination, these problems can put strain on intimate relationships, and affect sexual wellbeing in general.

“Sexual wellbeing is important for adults, but it can be difficult to talk about with doctors. This programme provides the opportunity for people with brain injuries to discuss their intimacy concerns with others going through a similar experience”

Dr Wright, Assistant Professor Research, Centre for Intelligent Healthcare

In the trial, half will be randomly assigned to take the intervention with support from peers and trained facilitators, while the other half will be in the control group and will direct themselves through the intervention. 

Dr Wright added: “We will be running the trial for six months to see how many people are referred by the NHS, how many can be reached via social media, whether they like the HOPE4ABI intervention, and if they are happy with the research trial in general.

“We are hopeful that the initial trial will show enough promising results to warrant a full, national trial. Then we can fully assess the effectiveness of HOPE4ABI over a longer term.”

The trial runs from November 2022 to October 2024. For more information, visit the trial website.

About the funder

The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. They do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of their research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.