Background The quality of the recruitment process has a fundamental influence on the potential value of research outputs. The bereavement study aimed to develop a set of core outcomes specific to bereavement support services for bereaved adults. A consensus methodology involving all the key stakeholders (including service users) was used to address the research questions. Nine hospices in the UK were approached to facilitate recruitment of study participants. We report on the recruitment of service users.
Methods Service users were asked to answer to a two-round DELPHI questionnaire (Hasson, Keeney & McKenna, 2000). Past service users could not be contacted because hospices would not normally retain the details of the people who have left their services. We relied on hospice staff who regularly saw bereavement support service users to identify users who were on their way to recovery and were able to reflect on the outcomes that were important when assessing the value of the service they received. Hospices were given two months to carry out recruitment.
Results Hospice-based health professionals helped us refine inclusion and exclusion criteria, time from loss was not an inclusion/exclusion criteria. Some of the hospices had lower recruitment rates mainly due to the tight time schedule set for recruitment. One in three of the service users replied to the first questionnaires and, of these, 90% participated to the second round of questionnaires.
Conclusions Hospice staff played an important role in supporting the recruitment of bereavement service users, but researchers need to allow enough time for efficient recruitment. Earlier engagement allowed active influence over the recruitment process. Hospital ‘internal’ readiness to recruit is an important factor. Both the literature (Bentley & O’Connor, 2015; Akard, Gilmer, Miller et al., 2014) and practice suggest that bereavement study participants are themselves the best judges on when to participate in research studies and time from loss is not an important inclusion/exclusion criteria.
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