Optimising Recruitment to Randomised Controlled Trials

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

The Short Course Programme in Population Health Sciences has been temporarily suspended.


We anticipate opening bookings in late November 2020.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list to be notified when bookings reopen. 

We may need to make responsive changes to our future programme to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please be aware that all information about short courses planned for 2021 is provisional and subject to change.

Course dates

Due to industrial action, this course has been reorganised for 1 May 2020

Course duration

1 day (6 hours of teaching time, consisting of a blend of lecture materials, interactive discussion and practical group work).

Registration will begin at 9am on the first day, the course will finish by 4.30pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Dr Leila Rooshenas and Dr Nicola Mills (course organisers).

Course aims and objectives 

This course aims to provide an introduction to the challenges of recruiting patients to randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and the strategies that may be employed to address these. There will be a particular focus on RCTs set in secondary care hospital settings spanning a range of medical specialties (e.g. surgery, oncology).

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students should:

  1. Be aware of common logistical and organisational issues that can impede recruitment;
  2. Understand the purpose of RCT screening logs and their value in monitoring recruitment and identifying difficulties;
  3. Understand the ways in which equipoise issues can undermine RCT recruitment and be aware of strategies for overcoming these difficulties;
  4. Be aware of how language and terminology can influence potential trial participants’ interpretations of trial treatments and processes;
  5. Appreciate the importance of understanding patients' views for/against trial treatments.

Who the course is intended for

This course is relevant  for researchers, trial co-ordinators, and health care professionals who have an interest in the design and delivery of randomised controlled trials. It is particularly suitable for individuals who have a role in organising or undertaking trial recruitment - especially trials in secondary care hospital settings that are deemed difficult to recruit to. 

Course outline

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) can provide high quality evidence about the comparative effectiveness of health care interventions, but they can be challenging and costly to deliver. One of the biggest threats to successful trial delivery is slow or sub-optimal recruitment of patients. Recruitment difficulties can lead to costly research extensions, administrative burden, delayed reporting, and - in some cases - premature trial closure.   

This course aims to equip attendees with knowledge and insight into the common sources of recruitment difficulty in RCTs, and the possible ways of mitigating or overcoming these. There will be particular emphasis on how to introduce and explain RCTs to potential participants, with a view to optimising informed consent and reducing missed opportunities for recruitment. The course content has been informed by two decades of research into optimising RCT recruitment, conducted by the University of Bristol's QuinteT research group. The QuinteT group have worked on over thirty challenging RCTs, most of which have compared very different types of treatment or 'non-treatment' groups in secondary care NHS settings.   

The day long course will cover the following areas, using examples from real RCTs: 

  1. Common organisational and logistic difficulties that can impede recruitment;
  2. Use of screening logs to monitor recruitment, identify issues, and prioritise solutions;
  3. An overview of the concepts of individual and community equipoise, and their implications for recruitment;
  4. Strategies for responding to and addressing patient preferences for or against trial treatments;
  5. The implications of language and terminology on recruitment when discussing RCTs with potential participants.  

Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

The course was very well run, engaging, and well-presented

Course feedback, March 2019

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email short-course@bristol.ac.uk.

Edit this page