Background: There are currently several concerns about the ways in which people are recruited to participate in randomised controlled trials, the low acceptance rates among people invited to participate, and the experiences of trial participants. An information resource about on-going clinical trials designed for potential and current participants could help overcome some of these problems.
Methods: We carried out a scoping exercise to explore the desirability and feasibility of establishing such a resource. We sought the views of a range of people including people who were considering taking part in a trial, current trial participants, people who had been asked but refused to participate in a trial, consumer group representatives and researchers who design and conduct trials.
Results: There was broad-based support for the concept of a centralised information resource for members of the public about on-going and recently completed clinical trials. Such an information resource could be based on a database containing standardised information for each trial relating to the purpose of the trial; the interventions being compared; the implications of participation for participants; and features indicative of scientific quality and ethical probity. The usefulness of the database could be enhanced if its search facility could allow people to enter criteria such as a disease and geographic area and be presented with all the trials relevant to them, and if optional display formats could allow them to view information in varying levels of detail. Access via the Internet was considered desirable, with complementary supported access via health information services. The development of such a resource is technically feasible, but the collation of the required information would take a significant investment of resources.
Conclusion: A centralised participant oriented information resource about clinical trials could serve several purposes. A more detailed investigation of its feasibility and exploration of its potential impacts are required.