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Testing a peer support intervention for people with type 2 diabetes: a pilot for a randomised controlled trial

David Simmons14*, Simon Cohn2, Christopher Bunn1, Kym Birch1, Sarah Donald1, Charlotte Paddison2, Candice Ward1, Peter Robins1, A Toby Prevost3 and Jonathan Graffy2

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK

2 Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

3 King’s College London, Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, London, UK

4 Wolfson Diabetes and Endocrinology Clinic, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Adden brookes Hospital, PO Box 281, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, England, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2013, 14:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-5

Published: 8 January 2013



People with Type 2 diabetes face various psycho-social, self-management and clinical care issues and evidence is mixed whether support from others with diabetes, ‘peer support’, can help. We now describe a 2 month pilot study of different peer support interventions.


The intervention was informed by formative evaluation using semi-structured interviews with health professionals, community support groups and observation of diabetes education and support groups. Invitations to participate were mailed from 4 general practices and included a survey of barriers to care. Participants were randomized by practice to receive individual, group, combined (both individual and group) or no peer support. Evaluation included ethnographic observation, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires at baseline and post-intervention.


Of 1,101 invited, 15% expressed an interest in participating in the pilot. Sufficient numbers volunteered to become peer supporters, although 50% of these (8/16) withdrew. Those in the pilot were similar to other patients, but were less likely to feel they knew enough about diabetes (60.8% vs 44.6% p = 0.035) and less likely to be happy with the diabetes education/care to date (75.4% vs 55.4% p = 0.013). Key issues identified were the need to recruit peer supporters directly rather than through clinicians, to address participant diabetes educational needs early and the potential for group sessions to have lower participation rates than 1:1 sessions.


Recruitment to a full trial of peer support within the existing study design is feasible with some amendments. Attendance emerged as a key issue needing close monitoring and additional intervention during the trial.

Diabetes; Peer support; Complex intervention; Self-management