Background: Primary care studies often encounter recruitment difficulties, but there is little evidence to inform solutions. As part of a National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research and UK Clinical Research Network programme, we elicited research staff perspectives on factors facilitating or obstructing recruitment.
Objective: To identify factors that experienced research staff consider important in successful recruitment and retention and their confidence in achieving them.
Methods: An iterative series of three workshops was held. The third used a modified nominal group technique to categorize whether factors related to the 'context' in which the research took place, the 'content' of the study or the recruitment 'process' and to prioritize them by their importance to success.
Results: Eighteen research staff participated in the prioritization workshop. They prioritized positive attitudes of primary care staff towards research and trust of researchers by potential participants as major contextual factors affecting recruitment. Studies needed to be considered safe and relevant by staff and fit with practice systems. They proposed that researchers strengthen relationships with staff and participants and minimize workload for primary care teams. Although confident in many recruitment processes, respondents remained uncertain how to achieve cultural change so that research became part of normal practice activity and how best to motivate patients to participate.
Conclusions: Research workers taking part identified factors which might be important in recruitment, several of which they expressed little confidence in addressing. Understanding how to improve recruitment is crucial if current efforts to strengthen primary care research are to bear fruit.