£2m research project analyses speech therapy for people with Parkinsons

08 March 2017

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers are part of a £2million collaborative research project investigating the effectiveness of different types of speech therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition which affects approximately 127,000 people in the UK, of which two-thirds have speech-related problems, leading to increased physical and mental demands during conversation, reduced independence and social withdrawal.

Speech and language therapy is advocated for people with Parkinson’s disease but current provision is low, with a recent Parkinson’s UK survey reporting that just 37% of the patients included had received therapy.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)’s Health Technology Assessment Programme, the ‘PDCOMM’ research project will compare the clinical and cost effectiveness of two speech and language therapy approaches with no access to therapy: a therapy approach called the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment; and the standard NHS speech and language therapy.

The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment focuses on increasing vocal loudness and is delivered by a speech therapist over 16 hours over four weeks.  The standard speech and language therapy intervention is tailored to the individual patient’s needs, but typically consists of an hour per week for six to eight weeks.

During the research project, people with Parkinson’s will be randomly assigned to one of the three different groups and their communication effectiveness and quality of life will be compared over 12 months of their participation. The findings will be used to inform the future commissioning of therapy services for people with such speech problems.

Led by Chief investigator Professor Catherine Sackley of King's College London, the project will involve more than 500 patients with speech problems using elderly care and neurology units across the UK.

The Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and the University of Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit are research hubs for the project, collating and analysing data throughout the trial.

GCU’s Professor Marian Brady is an award-winning researcher with expertise in rehabilitation in long-term neurological conditions such as stroke, and interventions such as speech and language therapy.

Professor Brady said: “We are delighted to be able to contribute to this trial for people with Parkinson’s disease which will enhance our understanding of how we can best support and treat people with speech problems related to their Parkinson’s disease. It is also a wonderful way for NHS therapists to get involved in high-quality clinically relevant research being led by an experienced research team.”

Professor Sackley said: “I am delighted to continue to work with Professor Brady following the success of our pilot work funded by The Dunhill Medical Trust. The quality of the contribution from GCU and the rest of the team, including Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, is first class.”