Objective: To investigate the perceived barriers among GPs towards introducing participation in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to patients presenting with depression during consultations.
Methods: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Interviews were recorded using a digital voice recorder, transcribed verbatim and analysed using the Framework Approach. The participants were 41 GPs from five primary care trusts in the South West who were collaborating with the University of Bristol on an RCT recruiting patients with depression.
Results: Three themes were identified: (i) concern about protecting the vulnerable patient and the impact on the doctor-patient relationship; (ii) the perceived lack of skill and confidence of GPs to introduce a request for research participation within a potentially sensitive consultation; and (iii) the priority given to clinical and administrative issues over research participation. These themes were underpinned by GPs' observations that consultations with people about depression differed in content, style and perceived difficulty compared to other types of consultations.
Conclusion: Depressed patients were often viewed as vulnerable and in need of protection and it was seen as difficult and intrusive to introduce research. Patients were not always given the choice to participate in research in the same way that they are encouraged to participate in treatment decision making. A lack of skills in introducing research could be addressed with training through the new Primary Care Research Network. A more radical change in clinician attitudes and policy may be needed in order to give research a higher priority within primary care.