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Study found that during trial discussions parents and young people said little, but later described them positively. The concerns of some practitioners that asking about research would overburden families were unfounded, and parents did not object to being asked. Generally, it was felt that written information on trials could be shorter and more straightforward

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V Shilling 1,*, PR Williamson 2, H Hickey 3, E Sowden 1, RL Smyth 4, B Young 1

1 Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
2 Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
3 Medicines for Children Research Network Clinical Trials Unit, Institute of Child Health, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, UK
4 Institute of Child Health, University of Liverpool, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, UK
* Corresponding author Email: val.shilling@liverpool.ac.uk

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To investigate recruitment processes across a range of clinical trials and from the perspective of parents, young people and practitioners to identify strategies to improve recruitment and its conduct across the spectrum of trials of medicines for children.

DESIGN

Qualitative interview and observational study.

SETTING

Eleven paediatric clinical trial centres recruiting to four trials.

PARTICIPANTS

Members of 60 families approached to consider entry to one of the participating trials and 31 practitioners.

INTERVENTIONS

None.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Data were verbatim transcripts of (1) audio-recorded trial recruitment discussions between practitioners and families (n = 41) and (2) semi-structured interviews with parents (n = 62), young people (n = 22) and practitioners (19 doctors and 12 research nurses). Analyses were interpretive, following the general principles of the constant comparative method.

RESULTS

Practitioners were concerned to avoid overburdening parents and some indicated that they found approaching families about trials to be aversive. By contrast, even in the most difficult situations, parents did not mind being asked about trials and they did not describe the approach as burdensome. Some parents viewed the trial approach as a positive or exciting opportunity. Parents and young people took little active part in the trial discussions and asked few questions. Despite this, they were satisfied with how they had been approached, and spoke of how they had felt involved, valued, cared for and comfortable to interject during the discussion. However, we identified several parents who had important misunderstandings about the trial. There were few differences between parents who consented and those who declined a trial. Regardless of whether they consented or declined, parents' trial decisions were influenced by their perceptions of the trial in relation to their child's safety and well-being, potential benefits to the child and family, potential benefits to others and the practicality of participation. Of these, parents' paramount consideration was safety. Parents', young people's and practitioners' views of what was important when considering a trial were broadly convergent, although families gave greater importance than practitioners to the trial's practical requirements. All parties valued the face-to-face trial discussion highly and wanted shorter and less complex written information. Parents did not feel pressured by the trial team to participate, but some described how their personal values made them reluctant to decline, and several parents who did decline described a passing sense of discomfort.

CONCLUSIONS

The concerns of some practitioners that families would be overburdened were unfounded, as parents did not object to being asked about research. Practitioners may benefit from support that helps them feel personally more at ease in approaching families about trials. Parents and young people often described the trial discussions in strongly positive terms and emphasised the importance of the social and emotional aspects of these encounters. Informed consent training could be enhanced if it similarly emphasised these aspects of recruitment; the misunderstandings we identified indicate how this training could also help practitioners to improve the clarity of their trial discussions with families. Guidelines on informed consent documents should take account of findings that all groups thought that these documents should be shorter and more straightforward.

FUNDING

This research was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To investigate recruitment processes across a range of clinical trials and from the perspective of parents, young people and practitioners to identify strategies to improve recruitment and its conduct across the spectrum of trials of medicines for children.

DESIGN

Qualitative interview and observational study.

SETTING

Eleven paediatric clinical trial centres recruiting to four trials.

PARTICIPANTS

Members of 60 families approached to consider entry to one of the participating trials and 31 practitioners.

INTERVENTIONS

None.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Data were verbatim transcripts of (1) audio-recorded trial recruitment discussions between practitioners and families (n = 41) and (2) semi-structured interviews with parents (n = 62), young people (n = 22) and practitioners (19 doctors and 12 research nurses). Analyses were interpretive, following the general principles of the constant comparative method.

RESULTS

Practitioners were concerned to avoid overburdening parents and some indicated that they found approaching families about trials to be aversive. By contrast, even in the most difficult situations, parents did not mind being asked about trials and they did not describe the approach as burdensome. Some parents viewed the trial approach as a positive or exciting opportunity. Parents and young people took little active part in the trial discussions and asked few questions. Despite this, they were satisfied with how they had been approached, and spoke of how they had felt involved, valued, cared for and comfortable to interject during the discussion. However, we identified several parents who had important misunderstandings about the trial. There were few differences between parents who consented and those who declined a trial. Regardless of whether they consented or declined, parents' trial decisions were influenced by their perceptions of the trial in relation to their child's safety and well-being, potential benefits to the child and family, potential benefits to others and the practicality of participation. Of these, parents' paramount consideration was safety. Parents', young people's and practitioners' views of what was important when considering a trial were broadly convergent, although families gave greater importance than practitioners to the trial's practical requirements. All parties valued the face-to-face trial discussion highly and wanted shorter and less complex written information. Parents did not feel pressured by the trial team to participate, but some described how their personal values made them reluctant to decline, and several parents who did decline described a passing sense of discomfort.

CONCLUSIONS

The concerns of some practitioners that families would be overburdened were unfounded, as parents did not object to being asked about research. Practitioners may benefit from support that helps them feel personally more at ease in approaching families about trials. Parents and young people often described the trial discussions in strongly positive terms and emphasised the importance of the social and emotional aspects of these encounters. Informed consent training could be enhanced if it similarly emphasised these aspects of recruitment; the misunderstandings we identified indicate how this training could also help practitioners to improve the clarity of their trial discussions with families. Guidelines on informed consent documents should take account of findings that all groups thought that these documents should be shorter and more straightforward.

FUNDING

This research was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

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