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Annual Review 2015

Fighting fatigue: Managing Multiple Sclerosis

Improving the quality of life for people with MS.

The Research

Around 127,000 people in the UK are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported and debilitating symptoms of MS, and is the main reason why people have to stop working. It’s very different from the kind of tiredness that we all experience from time to time - it can have a devastating impact on all spheres of people’s lives; stopping them from fulfilling responsibilities and doing things that really matter to them.

Over the past decade, Professor Peter Thomas and Dr Sarah Thomas at Bournemouth University’s Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU) have been developing and evaluating a novel approach to support people with MS to manage their fatigue. They have been working closely with the Dorset MS team at Poole Hospital and other national collaborators to create and deliver the FACETS programme - Fatigue: Applying Cognitive behavioural and Energy effectiveness Techniques to lifestyle. FACETS  provides people with tools and strategies to support them to make the most of their available energy as well as exploring different, more helpful ways of thinking about fatigue, via group sessions delivered by health professionals.

The programme has been evaluated in a MS Society-funded multi-centre trial led by Professor Peter Thomas with collaborators from Poole, Bristol and Southampton. Participants in the trial group demonstrated great improvements in fatigue severity and self-efficacy after four months, and these improvements continued over a year, giving participants a greater quality of life.

The UK MS Society has worked closely with members of the research team to develop one-day training courses for health professionals, delivered by Alison Nock and Vicky Slingsby from the Dorset MS Service. To date, around 200 health professionals have been trained across the UK, and it has helped to launch a number of different research projects across Europe and Australasia.   

The Academics

Professor Peter Thomas and Dr Sarah Thomas

Professor Peter Thomas
Dr Sarah Thomas

We became interested in this area when we noticed that despite fatigue being a highly debilitating and very common symptom in MS there were few treatments available. We developed FACETS to combat that and it is currently being rolled out across the country in collaboration with the UK MS Society. In the future we would like to continue to work with the MS Society to maximise FACETS’ impact, expand our research and adapt FACETS for other chronic conditions.

The Student

Josephine George

As an Occupational Therapy (OT) student, it’s so inspiring to see expertise being drawn from other disciplines to develop effective OT-delivered interventions, the way that FACETS builds cognitive behavioural approaches into lifestyle management. Learning about the FACETS Programme will inform my professional practice when I qualify, as fatigue is so often a secondary symptom of many other conditions. It’s really wonderful to see research have such an impact for the service users and the profession.

The Impact

Nick Rijke, Executive Director of Policy & Research, MS Society

We’re really proud to have funded this research into developing an effective way for people with MS to manage their fatigue. We know that finding effective treatments for fatigue is a top priority for the MS community, so the fact that the FACETS programme is now being delivered across the UK, helping hundreds of people with MS, is a real achievement.