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  • Primary Health Care Research & Development, Volume 12, Issue 2
  • April 2011, pp. 112-122

Factors influencing engagement of patients in a novel intervention for CFS/ME: a qualitative study

  • Carolyn Chew-Graham (a1), Joanna Brooks (a2), Alison Wearden (a3), Christopher Dowrick (a4) and Sarah Peters (a5)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2010

To establish what factors are important for patients to engage in a new intervention for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and make recommendations to general practitioners (GPs) on preparing a patient for referral to such a service.


NICE guidelines recommend a prominent role for primary care in the management of patients with CFS/ME, with prompt diagnosis and appropriate referral for evidence-based treatments.


A qualitative study nested within a multi-centre randomised controlled trial of two new nurse therapist delivered interventions. Semi-structured interviews carried out with 19 patients who had received pragmatic rehabilitation (PR) in the trial. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and an iterative approach used to develop themes from the data set.


Factors that influence whether or not a patient engages with PR for CFS/ME are ensuring that the patient feels accepted and believed, that they accept the diagnosis, and that the model implicated by the treatment offered to the patient matches the model of illness held by the patient. If patients hold a clearly incompatible model of their illness, it is unlikely that they will engage with, and successfully complete, therapy. It is vital that the GP elicits and explores such illness beliefs either before making a referral to maximise patient engagement in therapy, or that an initial session with the therapist explores attitudes to the treatment model offered and then works with the patient’s model.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, School of Community-Based Medicine, University of Manchester, 5th Floor, Williamson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. Email:
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Currently Research Fellow, University of Huddersfield.

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