Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Analysis And Comment Confidentiality and consent in medical research

Overcoming barriers to recruitment in health research

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 03 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:300

Rapid Response:

Some Research Ethics Committees believe in faciitating ethical research

The article "Overcoming barriers to recruitment in health research"
implies that all research ethics committees require that only patients who
"opt in" after receiving a communication from a researcher can be included
in a trial. This is not true.

The Royal Free Hospital Research Ethics Committee is well aware of
the reduced recruitement and bias that this may create. Researchers are
encouraged to attend our meetings so that we may discuss with them the
method of recruitment to the trial in question. Many researchers tell us
that if they can only recruit subjects who "opt in" after receiving the
invitation letter then they will not proceede with that particular project
because this bias and reduced recruitment will make it meaningless. Very
frequently we agree with them and permit them to make further contact with
the potential participant.

We do not think that this is unduly intrusive. Every morning all of
us receive invitations that interest us but we put them to one side and
forget about them. Have you ever tried to organise a retirement dinner.
You send out letters. Lots of people want to come. They all forget to
reply. You ring them up. They all come. They enjoy the dinner. It is the
same with research. You send out invitation letters. The subjects are
interested. They forget to reply. It is only when you ring them up to
provide further information that they make the positive decision to enrol.

There are research ethics commmittees who are interested in
facilitating research. Hopefully in the future issues such as this can be
discusses in a central forum so that there is a similar response from any
committee that you may approach.

Competing interests:
Chairman of the Royal Free Research Ethics Committeee

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 August 2006
Michael S Pegg
Consultant Anaesthetist, Chair of Research Ethics committee
Royal Free Hospital WD7 7ER