Increasing Join Dementia Research recruits through GP engagement

Project Description
A new initiative piloted in the West of England with local GP surgeries, has revealed a successful approach to recruiting volunteers to Join Dementia Research. A joint project between the NIHR Local Clinical Research Network (LCRN) and the Office of the NIHR National Director for Dementia Research, aimed to work alongside GPs in the region to identify and engage with patients via mailings to recruit for dementia research studies.

Adam Smith, Programme Manager for the Office of the NIHR National Director for Dementia Research, was keen to partner with this channel: “There are over 450,000 people living with dementia being cared for by their local doctor. Despite this however, they currently have one of the lowest number of referrals of all the channels that recruit to Join Dementia Research”.

  • Start by approaching GPs who are part of the NIHR RSI scheme or those interested in dementia
  • As GPs are very time-limited, send out a letter in advance telling them exactly what you require from them
  • Make it simple for the surgeries, keep the work you are asking them to do to a minimum
  • Remember to evaluate uptake and feedback success to GP Practices
  • The letter you send out to patients needs to be engaging and informative – tell them about why Join Dementia Research is so important and why we need their help
  • Consider who you are mailing – everyone over 55? Just people with a dementia diagnosis?
  • Before any mailings are sent out, ensure the charity helplines have been informed so they can prepare for phone calls and application forms
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Testing GP direct marketing to patients
Testing GP direct marketing to patients

    Developing Research with Primary Care

    Project Description
    To recruit to new research studies and clinical trials opening locally and how to keep abreast of the changes wrought by reforms taking place within the National Health Service, an opportunity arose for a project in East Anglia to address challenges in this through the advent of a new Primary Care Dementia Practitioner (PCDP) role. The chance to work with them from inception was seized to raise awareness about research with a group tasked with identifying and diagnosing memory problems in patients.
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    • Appreciate that cultural differences exist and that operational working practices vary between primary and secondary care and across the clinical research network landscape
    • Recognise that certain clinical trials and studies may be more appropriate to a primary care setting than others
    • Ensure that, wherever possible, joint input into all written and verbal communication with primary care colleagues is encouraged
    • Acknowledge that additional training may be necessary to provide people new to dementia research with a greater understanding of the challenges facing recruitment from this diverse patient cohort
    • Exploit the benefits that engaging with small numbers of GP surgeries can offer in relation to a fuller understanding of their community and in promoting a powerful word of mouth conduit to neighbouring GP practices
    • Realise that, although roles and responsibilities may be subject to change, the value in relationship building and networking across the local area can be invaluable in the long run
    • Recognise that an approach for consent into a research study or clinical trial may be difficult around the time of diagnosis as this can be a stressful and upsetting time for the patient
    • Consider using Join Dementia Research materials tailored to the patients
    • PCDP Meeting Handout

      It is good to advantage of opportunities that arise to talk to NHS staff about research, particularly those not involved. These slides were used to present research to the local Primary Care Dementia Practitioner (PCDP) group – explaining research and links to the role.

    • Materials Checklist

      This checklist is used as a final test to ensure patient-facing materials are complete and appropriate. This example was completed on the new leaflet designed to be used by PCDPs.

    • Dementia Research Leaflet

      This leaflet was developed specifically for distribution by PCDPs, with input from patients and professionals.

    • Join Dementia Research Leaflet

      This is a patient-facing leaflet that describes how Join Dementia Research works and contains information about how to sign up to the service.
      More information about Join Dementia Research materials can be viewed at

    • Designing Information Products and Obtaining Ratification

      The NHS takes branding very seriously, and most local NHS organisations will have rules to ensure patient facing materials are appropriate (please check). This is Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust policy and guidance for production of patient facing materials.

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