Serious but not solemn: Rebalancing the assessment of risks and benefits of patient recruitment materials
Armstrong N., Price J., Geddes J.
© 2014 National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). Recruiting patients to participate in health research is challenging, and most studies struggle. Failure to recruit can jeopardise the quality of research, and threatens efforts to improve healthcare. Despite this, recruitment materials tend to be conservatively designed and unimaginative. One reason for this is ethical concerns regarding the risk of coercion and offence posed by recruitment materials. The OXTEXT research programme gave patients a leading role in the design of new recruitment materials, in an area (mental health) where stigma and discrimination make ethical risks particularly acute. We discovered that our patient-designed recruitment materials were much bolder than usual, and they put the existing ethical boundaries to the test. The materials were effective and well liked – patients regarded them as neither unacceptable nor coercive. This suggests we may need to rethink the ethics of recruitment to research such that we permit more creative recruitment materials. In addition, it suggests a new role for patient input into research as designers of recruitment materials.