The HEart faiLure carer support Programme
: A feasibility study of the HELP intervention for carers

  • Lorna Cassidy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Background: Heart failure (HF) is a chronic and limiting condition, with a significant symptom burden that patients struggle to manage as the condition progresses. Patients often rely on support from family carers, who take on many responsibilities to help assist with self-care and management of symptoms. Evidence has found that carers experience poor quality of life linked to their caring role, and are in need of improved services and information to support them in their role.

Aim: To develop and examine the feasibility and acceptability of a co-designed psychoeducational intervention for carers of patients with HF.

Methods: A six-week online psychoeducational intervention was developed using a rigorous and systematic process, informed by theory and evidence, with a co-design approach used throughout. The intervention consisted of: 6 x support group sessions and a tailored information book. A convergent mixed methods design was used to examine the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention. Quantitative data examined recruitment rates, intervention adherence, and attrition. Six validated questionnaires measured a range of outcomes at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks, to explore appropriate outcome measures, and a sample size for a future trial. Qualitative data was collected via post-intervention focus groups to examine the acceptability of the intervention.

Results: 22 participants took part in the study, and a low attrition rate of 14.3% (n=3) was found. The majority of participants completed all support group sessions (67%, n=12). Findings indicated participants felt a reduction in stress and worry, improvement in knowledge about HF and services for carers, and valued the supportive environment. A large effect size improvement was also found in the level of carer preparedness at 12 weeks follow-up (g=0.8).

Conclusion: An online psychoeducational intervention for carers of patients with HF is acceptable and feasible, supporting progression into a future larger trial.

Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke
SupervisorLoreena Hill (Supervisor) & Donna Fitzsimons (Supervisor)


  • Carers needs
  • heart failure
  • psychoeducation
  • feasibility study
  • online intervention
  • supportive care

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