1.5 million Funding Award for Aphasia Research

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A research team based in the Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology group (RAT) and the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) have been awarded £1.5 million from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme.  This is to carry out a randomised controlled trial investigating the clinical and cost-effectiveness of aphasia computer treatment long-term post-stroke.

Aphasia is a communication disorder often caused by stroke.  It affects the ability to understand, talk, read and write. People with aphasia rarely receive treatment from NHS speech and language therapists for more than 3 months.  It has been established that people with aphasia can continue to improve their communication with prolonged treatment (beyond 12 months), but this is rarely available.

Step-by-Step is a computer program designed to help people to practice exercises to improve their ability to find the correct words when they are talking. Following a successful pilot, this study aims to compare computer therapy with attention control (puzzle books) and usual care to see if the use of computer software with assistance from a volunteer/speech therapy assistant can improve the ability of people with aphasia to talk.

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This research will establish whether people with aphasia can continue to improve their ability to talk after completion of traditional NHS therapy, and whether this can be achieved cost effectively by offering computer treatment at home.  Potential benefits to patients include the opportunity for continued treatment and thus improved ability to talk. It could also give patients independence and control over their therapy.  The NHS would benefit by being able to support long term aphasia treatment services without increasing demand on therapy resources.

Professor Pam Enderby, Professor of Communication Rehabilitation at ScHARR, said:

"We are well aware that the NHS has limited resources, and that many people who have had a stroke and are aphasic do not get much help to continue their speech and language therapy.  I am delighted that this project, which will investigate whether individuals with aphasia will benefit from computerised intervention, has been generously funded by NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme.

It is exciting to be involved in the project, which is addressing the serious and debilitating condition of aphasia with new technologies and new ways of working."