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Study to improve speech in Parkinson's awarded £2 million NIHR funding

Cath Sackley

Professor Catherine Sackley has been awarded £2 million in funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to trial speech therapy to improve the ability of people with Parkinson’s disease to communicate.

Around two thirds of people with Parkinson’s have difficulties with their speech, especially speaking loudly enough for others to hear. Less than a third of people with Parkinson’s who have speech problems are offered speech and language therapy, because there is not currently good evidence for its effectiveness.

This new five-year, randomised controlled trial will evaluate the effectiveness and value for money of speech and language therapy. The researchers hope if this study shows positive results it will enable and encourage more patients with Parkinson’s to receive this therapy in the NHS.

The study will recruit 546 people with Parkinson’s who have difficulty with their speech or voice. They will be randomised into three groups: a control group and two groups who will receive speech therapy (standard NHS speech therapy or Lee Silverman Voice Treatment). Participants will be followed up over a year to assess if the treatment improves their ability to communicate or their quality of life.

Professor Sackley, chief investigator on the project, is Chair of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation in the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King’s College London.

The study will be conducted in collaboration with Professor Carl Clarke, from the University of Birmingham, Professor Chris Burton from Bangor University, Dr Christina Smith from University College London, Professor Marian Brady from Glasgow Caledonian University, Professor Lorraine Ramig from the University of Colorado and Natalie Ives and Cally Rick from the University of Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit.

The project is funded by the NIHR's Health Technology Assessment Programme (10/135/02). Find out more about the project on the NIHR website. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS.