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Methodological issues in the design and evaluation of supported communication for aphasia training: a cluster-controlled feasibility study

18 Apr 2016


To assess the feasibility and acceptability of training stroke service staff to provide supported communication for people with moderate–severe aphasia in the acute phase; assess the suitability of outcome measures; collect data to inform sample size and Health Economic evaluation in a definitive trial.


Phase II cluster-controlled, observer-blinded feasibility study.


In-patient stroke rehabilitation units in the UK matched for bed numbers and staffing were assigned to control and intervention conditions.


70 stroke rehabilitation staff from all professional groups, excluding doctors, were recruited. 20 patients with moderate-severe aphasia were recruited.


Supported communication for aphasia training, adapted to the stroke unit context versus usual care. Training was supplemented by a staff learning log, refresher sessions and provision of communication resources.

Main outcome measures

Feasibility of recruitment and acceptability of the intervention and of measures required to assess outcomes and Health Economic evaluation in a definitive trial. Staff outcomes: Measure of Support in Conversation; patient outcomes: Stroke and Aphasia Quality of Life Scale; Communicative Access Measure for Stroke; Therapy Outcome Measures for aphasia; EQ-5D-3L was used to assess health outcomes.


Feasibility of staff recruitment was demonstrated. Training in the intervention was carried out with 28 staff and was found to be acceptable in qualitative reports. 20 patients consented to take part, 6 withdrew. 18 underwent all measures at baseline; 16 at discharge; and 14 at 6-month follow-up. Of 175 patients screened 71% were deemed to be ineligible, either lacking capacity or too unwell to participate. Poor completion rates impacted on assessment of patient outcomes. We were able to collect sufficient data at baseline, discharge and follow-up for economic evaluation.


The feasibility study informed components of the intervention and implementation in day-to-day practice. Modifications to the design are needed before a definitive cluster-randomised trial can be undertaken.

Trial registration number

ISRCTN37002304; Results.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open