Objective: To develop an intervention, using the first three phases of the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for complex interventions, to facilitate coping skills in new carers of stroke patients.
Methods: In the preclinical (theoretical) phase, a theoretically based framework for a small group course for carers of people with stroke was developed. The intervention was grounded in a cognitive behavioural model and included carers' needs identified from a literature review. Phase I (modelling phase) comprised a qualitative study involving one-to-one semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of informal carers of people with stroke. Following this, the intervention was modified. In phase II (exploratory phase), the modified intervention was delivered by a clinical psychologist and stroke nurse practitioner to five carers. Following postcourse interviews the course was further refined and delivered to seven new carers who subsequently completed a satisfaction questionnaire.
Results: Carers' needs identified from the literature included information provision; managing emotions; social support; health maintenance; and practical problem solving. Consultation with existing carers confirmed these as important issues with a strong emphasis on finding niches of control in life, becoming an expert carer, and dealing with emotional upheaval. Participants reported feeling more optimistic and empowered subsequent to the course.
Conclusions: The MRC framework provided a useful methodology for the development of a complex intervention. The course aimed to assist carers to regain control over aspects of their lives and manage their emotions. It was feasible to run and acceptable to carers; however a randomized controlled trial (RCT) is required to evaluate its effectiveness.