Optimising Recruitment to Randomised Controlled Trials

An online short course

This course aims to provide an introduction to the challenges of recruiting patients to randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and strategies that could be employed to address these. Particular emphasis will be placed on how to introduce and explain RCTs to potential participants to optimise informed consent and reduce missed opportunities for recruitment. Examples will be drawn primarily from trials set in secondary care hospital settings that span a range of medical specialities.

Course date 7 May 2021
Course fee £220
Course Organisers Dr Leila Rooshenas & Dr Nicola Mills


Please ensure you meet the following prerequisites before booking:

Knowledge It would be advantageous if course attendees have some knowledge and understanding of randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The course does not go into detail about the design/conduct of RCTs, and therefore individuals unfamiliar with this study design may consider first attending the Designing and Conducting Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trials short course. Experience of having worked on an RCT would be particularly beneficial, although not essential.


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.

Course format

This 1-day course will be a blend of pre-recorded/asynchronous materials and live/synchronous presentations, discussions and practicals. The live sessions will occur at various timepoints throughout the day. Participants will have the option to complete the whole course on the set day, but there will be flexibility to engage with the material outside of this.

Course objectives

By the end of the course participants 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. Appreciate the importance of understanding patients' views for/against trial treatments.
  5. Be aware of how language and terminology can influence potential trial participants’ interpretations of trial treatments and processes.

Who the course is intended for

This course is suitable for researchers, trial co-ordinators, and health care professionals who have an interest in the design and delivery of RCTs. This course is particularly suitable for attendees 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

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 fifty 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 engaging with patient preferences for or against trial treatments.
  5. The implications of language and terminology on recruitment when discussing RCTs with potential participants.

Online Course Bookings

Bookings are open for online courses running in 2021.

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

Course feedback, March 2019

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We may need to make responsive changes to our courses at short notice in order to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

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