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One-to-one befriending for people with intellectual disability and symptoms of depression: protocol for a pilot randomised controlled trial
  1. Afia Ali1,
  2. Emma Mckenzie2,
  3. Angela Hassiotis1,
  4. Stefan Priebe3,
  5. Brynmor Lloyd-Evans1,
  6. Rumana Omar4,
  7. Rebecca Jones1,
  8. Monica Panca5,
  9. Vincent Fernandez6,
  10. Sally Finning6,
  11. Shirley Moore7,
  12. Danielle O'Connor7,
  13. Christine Roe7,
  14. Michael King1
  1. 1Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Research and Development, North East London NHS Foundation Trust Goodmayes Hospital, Ilford, Essex, UK
  3. 3Unit of Social and Community Psychiatry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Statistical Science, University College London, London, UK
  5. 5Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  6. 6Hackney Volunteer and Befriending Scheme, Outward, London, UK
  7. 7The Befriending Scheme, Sudbury, Suffolk, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Afia Ali; afia.ali{at}


Introduction People with intellectual disability (ID) are more likely to experience loneliness and have smaller social networks, which increases vulnerability to depression. Befriending may reduce depressive symptoms in other populations, but randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have not been carried out in this population. This pilot study aims to assess the acceptability and feasibility of carrying out a full RCT of one-to-one befriending by volunteers for people with ID, compared with an active control group.

Methods and analysis The trial aims to recruit 40 participants with ID. Participants in the intervention arm will receive weekly visits from a volunteer over 6 months. Community befriending schemes will recruit, train, supervise volunteers and match them to individuals with ID. Both groups will receive a booklet about local activities and have access to usual care. Health and social outcomes will be measured at the end of the intervention and 6 months’ follow-up. The following outcomes will be assessed: (1) recruitment and retention of individuals with ID and volunteers in the trial, (2) adverse events related to the intervention, (3) the acceptability of the intervention, (4) whether the intervention is delivered as intended, (5) changes in health and social outcomes and (6) the feasibility of carrying out a cost-effectiveness analysis in a full trial. Qualitative data from participants, volunteers, staff and carers will identify barriers and facilitators of a future full trial.

Ethics and dissemination The study has been approved by the London City and East Research Ethics Committee (reference 18/LO/2188). The findings will be presented at conferences and published in a peer-reviewed journal and in the National Institute of Health Research journals library. A public engagement seminar will be held at the end of the study aimed at key stakeholders.

Trial registration number ISRCTN63779614.

  • depression & mood disorders
  • qualitative research
  • delirium & cognitive disorders

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  • Contributors AA is the chief investigator and was responsible for the overall study design and conduct. AA, SP, MK, AH, BL-E and RO contributed to the design of the study and methodology. SF, VF, DOC, CR and SM were responsible for designing and delivering the intervention. EM carried out the data collection. RO, RJ and MP contributed to the analysis plan. All the authors reviewed and approved the manuscript.

  • Funding The study/project is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) (Public Health Research Funding Stream (project reference: 16/122/57)). The views expressed are the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the NIHR of the Department of Health and Social Care.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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