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Persistent physical symptoms reduction intervention: a system change and evaluation in secondary care (PRINCE secondary) - a CBT-based transdiagnostic approach: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number307
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2019

King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Persistent physical symptoms (PPS), also known as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), affect approximately 50% of patients in secondary care and are often associated with disability, psychological distress and increased health care costs. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has demonstrated both short- and long-term efficacy with small to medium effect sizes for PPS, with larger treatment effects for specific PPS syndromes, including non-cardiac chest pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Research indicates that PPS conditions share similar cognitive and behavioural responses to symptoms, such as avoidance and unhelpful beliefs. This suggests that a transdiagnostic approach may be beneficial for patients with PPS. METHODS: A randomised controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a transdiagnostic CBT-based intervention for PPS. 322 participants with PPS will be recruited from secondary care clinics. Participants stratified by clinic and disability level will be randomised to CBT plus standard medical care (SMC) versus SMC alone. The intervention consists of 8 CBT sessions delivered by a qualified therapist over a period of 20 weeks. Outcomes will be assessed at 9, 20, 40- and 52-weeks post randomisation. Efficacy will be assessed by examining the difference between arms in the primary outcome Work and Social Adjustment Scale (WSAS) at 52 weeks after randomisation. Secondary outcomes will include mood, symptom severity and clinical global impression at 9, 20, 40 and 52 weeks. Cost-effectiveness will be evaluated by combining measures of health service use, informal care, loss of working hours and financial benefits at 52 weeks. DISCUSSION: This trial will provide a powered evaluation of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a transdiagnostic CBT approach versus SMC for patients with PPS. It will also provide valuable information about potential healthcare pathways for patients with PPS within the National Health Service (NHS). TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02426788. Registered 27 April 2015. Overall trial status: Ongoing; Recruitment status: No longer recruiting.

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