The UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) registered Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) Network aims to support high-quality, efficient and sustainable clinical trials research in the UK. To better understand the challenges in efficient trial conduct, and to help prioritise tackling these challenges, we surveyed CTU staff. The aim was to identify important inefficiencies during two key stages of the trial conduct life cycle: (i) from grant award to first participant, (ii) from first participant to reporting of final results.
Respondents were asked to list their top three inefficiencies from grant award to recruitment of the first participant, and from recruitment of the first participant to publication of results. Free text space allowed respondents to explain why they thought these were important. The survey was constructed using SurveyMonkey and circulated to the 45 registered CTUs in May 2013. Respondents were asked to name their unit and job title, but were otherwise anonymous. Free-text responses were coded into broad categories.
There were 43 respondents from 25 CTUs. The top inefficiency between grant award and recruitment of first participant was reported as obtaining research and development (R&D) approvals by 23 respondents (53%), contracts by 22 (51%), and other approvals by 13 (30%). The top inefficiency from recruitment of first participant to publication of results was failure to meet recruitment targets, reported by 19 (44%) respondents. A common comment was that this reflected overoptimistic or inaccurate estimates of recruitment at site. Data management, including case report form design and delays in resolving data queries with sites, was reported as an important inefficiency by 11 (26%) respondents, and preparation and submission for publication by 9 (21%).
Recommendations for improving the efficiency of trial conduct within the CTUs network include: further reducing unnecessary bureaucracy in approvals and contracting; improving training for site staff; realistic recruitment targets and appropriate feasibility; developing training across the network; improving the working relationships between chief investigators and units; encouraging funders to release sufficient funding to allow prompt recruitment of trial staff; and encouraging more research into how to improve the efficiency and quality of trial conduct.