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Methodological challenges and issues of recruiting for mental health and substance use disorders trials in primary care


Poor recruitment to controlled trials is a frequently reported problem. Challenges related to study design, communication, participants, interventions, outcomes, and clinician workload hinder recruitment, and the effectiveness of interventions used by trialists to increase recruitment rates is unknown.


To explore the methodological challenges and issues in recruiting for mental health and substance use disorder trials in primary care, and to consider how these methodological challenges can be addressed.


The presentation will recount the authors’ experience of recruiting for cluster randomized trials in primary care. Methodological challenges, such as clarity of instruction, patient characteristics, patient-doctor relationship, effects of intervention on patients and clinic, and personal benefits for clinicians will be described. The authors will consider how these might relate to and be used for peer learning and peer support in primary care research.


The presentation will conclude with an overview of how lessons learned from past studies may be used to improve recruitment for trials of mental health and substance use disorders in primary care.


Grants support from the Irish Research Council: Supporting empiric research and capacity building on brief interventions and their delivery in primary care (PINTA-TOUR), and ELEVATE: Irish Research Council International Career Development Fellowship – co-funded by Marie Curie Actions (ELEVATEPD/2014/6). GS’s time is partly funded through the MRC grant “Development of a Methodology Hub for the island of Ireland” (G0901530).

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Correspondence to Walter Cullen.

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  • Public Health
  • Mental Health
  • Primary Care
  • Social Work
  • Health Psychology