Background: Opportunistic recruitment in primary care is challenging due to the inherent unpredictability of incident conditions, and workload and time pressures. Many clinical trials do not recruit to target, leading to equivocal answers to research questions. Learning from the experiences of patients and recruiters to trials of incident conditions has the potential to improve recruitment and retention to future trials, thereby enhancing the quality and impact of research findings. The aim of this research was to learn from the trial experiences of UTI patients and recruiters to the Cranberry for UTI (CUTI) trial, to help plan an adequately powered trial of similar design. Methods: One-to-one semi-structured interviews were embedded within the CUTI feasibility trial, an open-label, randomised feasibility trial of cranberry extract for symptoms of acute, uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in primary care. Interviews were conducted with a sample of: CUTI trial participants; non-CUTI trial UTI patients; and, recruiters to the CUTI trial. Verbatim transcripts were analysed thematically. Results: Twenty-six patients with UTI and eight recruiters (nurses and GPs) to the CUTI trial were interviewed. Three themes were developed around: reasons for participating in research; barriers to opportunistic recruitment; and, UTI patients’ experiences of trial procedures. Recruiters found that targeted electronic prompts directed at healthcare practitioners based in clinics where patients with incident conditions were likely to present (e.g. minor illness clinic) were more effective than generic prompts (e.g. desk prompts) at filtering patients from their usual clinical pathway to research clinics. Using a script to explain the delayed antibiotic trial group to patients was found to be helpful, and may have served to boost recruitment. For UTI patients, using an electronic diary to rate their symptoms was considered an acceptable medium, and often preferable to using a paper diary or mobile phone application. Conclusions: The use of targeted prompts directed at clinicians, a script to explain trial groups that may be deemed less desirable, and an appropriate diary format for patient-reported outcomes, may help to improve trial recruitment and retention.
BMC Primary Care