Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill

Senior Lecturer in Qualitative Research
Bournemouth University

The HeART of stroke project.

Bournemouth University researchers working alongside Royal Bournemouth Hospital stroke services and Cambridge Community Services have been awarded £250,000 funding from the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme, obtained with RDS support.

Caroline Ellis-Hill, Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University will work with a team of researchers, clinicians and artists to run a trial over two years in Bournemouth and Cambridgeshire to see if it will be feasible to design a national study exploring the effectiveness of an Arts for Health group to support people to maintain/regain a sense of wellbeing up to one year following a stroke.

A stroke can lead to psychological distress which if unresolved, can lead to long-term issues for people and their families and increase NHS use. Stroke services currently focus on the physical/practical (visible) aspects of life, often leaving psychological challenges hidden. These challenges often leave people feeling - 'Who am I now?' 'How do I fit in?' . If unresolved, these hidden challenges can lead to loss of confidence/depression and social isolation.

In an Arts for Health approach, people are supported in small groups to work alongside an artist and to feel safe to express themselves through creative activity. This allows them to explore their life situation and start to resolve ‘hidden’ psychological aspects. Arts for Health interventions have been shown to be helpful in GP practices for people with low self-esteem/low confidence; however, to date there is very little evidence to support use in mainstream stroke services. The team are planning a national study to see if Arts for Health groups will be helpful for people up to one year after their stroke. Before they do this the current study will help them to see how feasible the intervention and research processes are on a smaller scale.

Caroline worked closely with the RDS from the inception of the project and really valued the expertise provided in Randomised Controlled Trial design and statistical support. Also, the RDS set up the links with Bristol University to support the economic evaluation and Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit (PenCTU) to support randomisation. The successful application was submitted to the South West RfPB committee following feedback on the draft application from the RDS South West Project Review Committee. A number of RDS staff continue to work on the project, with this extra role funded from the research grant.

Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill said “The RDS South West team were very supportive and encouraging. The feedback from the team and their Project Review Committee was invaluable in helping to design a great study, think through the practicalities; and communicate effectively with the potential funders - thank you very much for your support .”