A randomised controlled trial of self-help interventions in patients with a primary care diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome

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A total of 420 patients from 54 primary care centres were randomised either to receive self-help information in the form of a guidebook or the guidebook plus a “self-help” group meeting or to be in a control group receiving neither intervention. Data were collected using questionnaires and primary care records.


At one year, patients in the guidebook group had a 60% reduction in primary care consultations (p<0.001) and a reduction in perceived symptom severity (p<0.001) compared with controls. Allocation to the self-help group conferred no additional benefit. Actual symptom scores did not change significantly in any group. Costs per patient were reduced by £73 (confidence interval £43, £103) or 40% per year.


Introduction of a self-help guidebook results in a reduction in primary care consultations, a perceived reduction in symptoms, and significant health service savings. This suggests that patients attending their primary care physician with functional abdominal symptoms should be offered self-help information as part of their management.

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