Skip to main content

Healthy Parent Carers Feasibility Trial Paper Published

Healthy Parent Carer researchers Jenny Lloyd, Gretchen Bjornstad and Aleksandra Borek have had their paper published in the BMJ Open Journal.

Here's a summary, or you can read the full paper here.


Objectives: Parent carers of children with special educational needs or disability are at risk of poorer mental and physical health. In response to these needs, we codeveloped the ‘Healthy Parent Carers’ (HPC) programme. This study examined the views and experiences of participants in the HPC feasibility trial to inform programme refinement.

Intervention, setting and participants HPC is a peer-led group-based intervention (supported by online materials) for primary carers of disabled children, encouraging behaviours linked with health and well-being. It was delivered by two lead and six assistant peer facilitators in six community sites (one lead and one assistant per group) in South West England over six or 12 sessions. Control participants had online materials only. The trial involved 47 intervention and 45 control parent carers (97% female and 97% white) and eight facilitators (one male).

Design: A preplanned mixed methods process evaluation using questionnaires and checklists (during and after the intervention), qualitative interviews with participants after intervention (n=18) and a focus group with facilitators after trial.

Results: HPC was highly acceptable to participants and facilitators and experiences were very positive. Participants reported that the programme increased awareness of what parent carers could and could not change and their self-efficacy to engage in health-promoting behaviours. The intended mechanisms of action (social identification and peer support) matched participants’ expectations and experiences. Control participants found the online-only programme flexible but isolating, as there were no opportunities to share ideas and problem solve with peers, the key function of the programme. Areas for improvement were identified for programme content, facilitator training and delivery.

Conclusion: HPC was acceptable, well received and offers considerable potential to improve the health of parent carers. Under the pandemic, the challenge going forward is how best to maintain reach and fidelity to function while delivering a more virtual programme.