Early, specialist vocational rehabilitation to facilitate return to work after traumatic brain injury: the FRESH feasibility RCT

Radford, Kathryn A. and Sutton, Chris and Sach, Tracey and Holmes, Jain and Watkins, Caroline L. and Forshaw, Denise and Jones, Trevor and Hoffman, Karen and O’Connor, Rory C. and Tyerman, Ruth and Merchán-Baeza, Jose Antonio and Morris, Richard and McManus, Emma and Drummond, Avril and Walker, Marion and Duley, Lelia and Shakespeare, David and Hammond, Alison and Phillips, Julie (2018) Early, specialist vocational rehabilitation to facilitate return to work after traumatic brain injury: the FRESH feasibility RCT. Health Technology Assessment, 22 (33). pp. 1-124. ISSN 1366-5278

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Abstract

Background

Up to 160,000 people incur traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year in the UK. TBI can have profound effects on many areas of human functioning, including participation in work. There is limited evidence of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation (VR) after injury to promote early return to work (RTW) following TBI.

Objective

To assess the feasibility of a definitive, multicentre, randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of early, specialist VR plus usual care (UC) compared with UC alone on work retention 12 months post TBI.

Design

A multicentre, feasibility, parallel-group RCT with a feasibility economic evaluation and an embedded mixed-methods process evaluation. Randomisation was by remote computer-generated allocation.

Setting

Three NHS major trauma centres (MTCs) in England.

Participants

Adults with TBI admitted for > 48 hours and working or studying prior to injury.

Interventions

Early specialist TBI VR delivered by occupational therapists (OTs) in the community using a case co-ordination model.

Main outcome measures

Self-reported RTW 12 months post randomisation, mood, functional ability, participation, work self-efficacy, quality of life and work ability. Feasibility outcomes included recruitment and retention rates. Follow-up was by postal questionnaires in two centres and face to face in one centre. Those collecting data were blind to treatment allocation.

Results

Out of 102 target participants, 78 were recruited (39 randomised to each arm), representing 39% of those eligible and 5% of those screened. Approximately 2.2 patients were recruited per site per month. Of those, 56% had mild injuries, 18% had moderate injuries and 26% had severe injuries. A total of 32 out of 45 nominated carers were recruited. A total of 52 out of 78 (67%) TBI participants responded at 12 months (UC, n = 23; intervention, n = 29), completing 90% of the work questions; 21 out of 23 (91%) UC respondents and 20 out of 29 (69%) intervention participants returned to work at 12 months. Two participants disengaged from the intervention. Face-to-face follow-up was no more effective than postal follow-up. RTW was most strongly related to social participation and work self-efficacy. It is feasible to assess the cost-effectiveness of VR. Intervention was delivered as intended and valued by participants. Factors likely to affect a definitive trial include deploying experienced OTs, no clear TBI definition or TBI registers, and repatriation of more severe TBI from MTCs, affecting recruitment of those most likely to benefit/least likely to drop out.

Limitations

Target recruitment was not reached, but mechanisms to achieve this in future studies were identified. Retention was lower than expected, particularly in UC, potentially biasing estimates of the 12-month RTW rate.

Conclusions

This study met most feasibility objectives. The intervention was delivered with high fidelity. When objectives were not met, strategies to ensure feasibility of a full trial were identified. Future work should test two-stage recruitment and include resources to recruit from ‘spokes’. A broader measure covering work ability, self-efficacy and participation may be a more sensitive outcome.

Item Type: Article
RIS ID: https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/935435
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine > Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.3310/hta22330
Depositing User: Dziunka, Patricia
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 09:56
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 19:38
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/52258

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