BACKGROUND: About 15.4 million people in the UK live with a long-term condition. Of the health and social care spend, 70% is invested in caring for this population. Evidence suggests that group-work interventions offer patient support, improved outcomes, and reduce the costs of care.
AIM: To review the current evidence base examining the effectiveness of group work in long-term physical disease where such groups are facilitated by healthcare professionals.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Systematic review and narrative synthesis of studies of group-work interventions led by health professionals for adults with specified long-term illnesses.
METHOD: MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and Cochrane databases were systematically searched using terms relating to group work and long-term conditions. Studies were included if they were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with a control group that did not include group work.
RESULTS: The 14 included studies demonstrated a high degree of heterogeneity in terms of participant characteristics, interventions, and outcome measures and were of varying quality. The studies demonstrated some statistically significant improvements in pain, psychological outcomes, self-efficacy, self-care, and quality of life resulting from intervention.
CONCLUSION: This review demonstrates significant benefits resulting from group participation, in adults with long-term disease. Results were mixed and some benefits were short-lived. Nevertheless, these results suggest that group work should be more widely used in the management and support of adults with long-term illness. There is a need for larger and better-quality studies to explore this potentially important area further.
To me, it is very important to emphasize that considering the paucity of studies assessing lay-led interventions, the authors recommend professionally led group-based and, also relevant, theoretically underpinned interventions to support people with long-term conditions.
This is an important review of a well respected treatment modality that re-affirms its practical relevance in this day of "show me the proof".