Befriending carers of people with dementia: randomised controlled trial

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 05 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1295
  1. Georgina Charlesworth, lecturer in clinical and health psychology of old age12,
  2. Lee Shepstone, reader in medical statistics3,
  3. Edward Wilson, research associate in health economics3,
  4. Shirley Reynolds, professor of clinical psychology3,
  5. Miranda Mugford, professor of health economics3,
  6. David Price, professor of primary care4,
  7. Ian Harvey, professor of epidemiology and public health3,
  8. Fiona Poland, senior lecturer in therapy research5
  1. 1Centre for Behavioural and Social Sciences in Medicine, University College London, London W1W 7EJ
  2. 2North East London Mental Health Trust, London
  3. 3School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ
  4. 4Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2AY
  5. 5School of Allied Health Professions, University of East Anglia
  1. Correspondence to: G Charlesworth g.charlesworth{at}
  • Accepted 3 April 2008


Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of a voluntary sector based befriending scheme in improving psychological wellbeing and quality of life for family carers of people with dementia.

Design Single blind randomised controlled trial.

Setting Community settings in East Anglia and London.

Participants 236 family carers of people with primary progressive dementia.

Intervention Contact with a befriender facilitator and offer of match with a trained lay volunteer befriender compared with no befriender facilitator contact; all participants continued to receive “usual care.”

Main outcome measures Carers’ mood (hospital anxiety and depression scale—depression) and health related quality of life (EuroQoL) at 15 months post-randomisation.

Results The intention to treat analysis showed no benefit for the intervention “access to a befriender facilitator” on the primary outcome measure or on any of the secondary outcome measures.

Conclusions In common with many carers’ services, befriending schemes are not taken up by all carers, and providing access to a befriending scheme is not effective in improving wellbeing.

Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN08130075.


  • We thank Norwich and Norfolk Voluntary Services, Age Concern Suffolk, and Age Concern Havering for hosting the befriending schemes and all the participating carers for their time and support. We also thank Tom Arie for the initial suggestion of evaluating voluntary sector support for carers.

  • Contributors: GC, IH, MM, FP, DP, SR, and LS were grantholders on the BECCA project, and all contributed to this outcome report. GC had overall responsibility for all aspects of the trial including collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing reports; and the decision to submit articles for publication. MM had overall responsibility for economic evaluation and its reporting. LS did the efficacy analysis. FP held overall responsibility for the befriending intervention. ECFW calculated the QALY outcomes. All authors were involved in reviewing and editing drafts. GC is the guarantor.

  • Funding: The BECCA trial was commissioned by the NHS R&D Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme (project no 99/34/07) after a call for primary research into “support for carers” and the associated peer review process. Volunteers’ out of pocket expenses were provided by Norfolk and Suffolk Social Services and the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. GC’s time was funded through a Department of Health ad hoc grant to North East London Mental Health Trust. The authors’ work is independent of the funders. Views and opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethical approval: Eastern Multi Regional Ethics Committee (01/5/48), the five local ethical research committees in Norfolk and Suffolk, and Barking and Havering local ethical research committee.

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

  • Accepted 3 April 2008
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