Guidance to inform research recruitment processes for studies involving critically ill patients

Kerry Woolfall, Katie Paddock, Megan Watkins, Anna Kearney, Katie Neville, Lucy Frith, Ingeborg Welters, Carrol Gamble, John Trinder, Natalie Pattison, Catherine White, Stephen Brett, Steve Dilworth, Mike Ross, Paul Mouncey, Kathy Rowan, Angus Dawson, Clive Collet, Tim Walsh, Bridget Young

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Clinical research in intensive care units (ICUs) is essential for improving treatments for critically ill patients. However, invitations to participate in clinical research in this situation pose numerous challenges. Studies are frequently initiated within a narrow time window when patients are often unconscious and unable to consent. Consultations or consent discussions must therefore be held with consultees or representatives, usually the patient’s relatives. Conversations about research participation in this setting may be difficult, as relatives are often overwhelmed and may feel uneasy about making decisions on behalf of their relatives. In some circumstances, legislation allows doctors to act as consultees or representatives to enrol patients in research. However, there is little good quality evidence on UK stakeholders’ perspectives to inform how recruitment is carried out in ICU studies. The Perspectives Study collected evidence on the views of over 1400 stakeholders, including patients, relatives and healthcare practitioners, many of whom had first-hand experience of ICU treatment and research. This evidence was used to inform good practice guidance on recruitment of critically ill patients to research. Established social science methods and empirical ethics were employed to reflect the interests of stakeholders and justify recommendations. This guidance aims to bridge the gap between the legal frameworks and the realities of ICU studies and to ensure that research recruitment processes reflect the views of patients and families. Researchers and an expert Advisory Group brought different perspectives to interpreting the evidence to develop the guidance. In this article we present guidance for future ICU studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Intensive Care Society (JICS)
Issue number1
Early online date8 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2024


  • clinical research
  • critical care
  • Guidance
  • consent
  • recruitment


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