Engaging with persistent medically unexplained physical symptoms in healthcare: a realist psychosexual service evaluation
persistent physical symptoms
cognitive behavioural therapy
short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy
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AbstractIn this study the phenomenon of persistent physical symptoms (PPS) has been examined by realist evaluation of research and practice. Nimnuan et al., (2001) have shown that up to 35% of patients in primary care and 66% in specialist out-patient clinics have presented with such ‘medically unexplained’ symptoms. The cost in medical investigation to reach diagnosis for PPS is an estimated 10% of the annual UK National Health Service budget (Bermingham et al., 2010) but poor patient outcomes prevail (Dwamena et al., 2009). Currently, PPS is linked to high comorbidity with anxiety and depression (DH 2011b) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is advised as the evidence based treatment for PPS (IAPT, 2014). However, a shortfall in clinical skills to address PPS is also demonstrated and engagement could be improved (De Lusignan et al., 2014). Moreover, the pragmatic study of alternative therapy modalities and processes for PPS is recommended (Leichsenring, 2005). To obtain a broader knowledge of process for patients with or without co-morbidity, practice based experience suggests that one such alternative is a brief psychodynamic intervention (STPP) for PPS. A Realist Literature Synthesis (Wong et al. 2013) highlights effective psychotherapeutic STPP interventions in real world circumstances in 5 comparison with CBT interventions for heterogenous PPS. STPP for PPS is found at least as effective as CBT, with improved engagement rates. Additionally, common factors were discovered between ‘third generation’ STPP and CBT for effective PPS interventions and these were developed into a preliminary cross-modality theoretical analytical framework. In the realist contextual evaluation (Pawson and Tilley, 1997) of a psychosexual service delivery, the majority of PPS sufferers were found only moderately co-morbid with anxiety and depression. For complete investigative study, clinical tools are developed providing integrative CBT/STPP principles for engagement with PPS for teaching, training and practice. In conclusion, the findings suggest that the reflexive insider position of the realist Therapist-Evaluator facilitates systematically derived Practice-Based Evidence of PPS process, meeting recommendations of Deary et al., (2007) to explore and define process and outcomes with PPS. The findings contribute to development of a conceptual platform to support health professionals in overcoming physical/mental health barriers to addressing PPS and wider patient access to effective care (NHSE, 2014, 2015).
CitationPenman, J (2015) ‘Engaging with Persistent Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms in Healthcare: A Realist Psychosexual Service Evaluation'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in part fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate in Health Related Studies
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