Open Access Correspondence

Developing a Dementia Research Registry: a descriptive case study from North Thames DeNDRoN and the EVIDEM programme

Steve Iliffe1*, Lisa Curry2, Kalpa Kharicha1, Greta Rait1, Jane Wilcock1, David Lowery3, Archana Tapuria4, Dipak Kalra4 and Craig Ritchie5

Author Affiliations

1 Research Department of Primary Care & Population Health, University College London, Royal Free campus, Rowland Hill St., London NW3 2PF, UK

2 West London Mental Health Trust, London, UK

3 Central & NW London NHS Foundation Trust, London UK

4 Centre for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education University College London Holborn Union Building, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, London UK

5 West London NHS Mental Health Trust, London UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-9

Published: 27 January 2011



To describe the development of a dementia research registry, outlining the conceptual, practical and ethical challenges, and to report initial experiences of recruiting people with dementia to it from primary and secondary care.


Women, the oldest old and ethnic minorities have been under-represented in clinical trials in dementia. Such under-representation biases estimates of absolute effect, absolute harm and cost-effectiveness. Research on dementia should include patient populations that more exactly reflect the population at risk. One of the impediments to this is the lack of a suitable tool for identification of patients suitable for studies.

Construction & contents

A technology development methodology was used to develop a registry of people with dementia and their carers. This involved phases of modelling and prototype creation, 'bench testing' the prototype with experts and then 'field testing' the refined prototype in exemplar sites. The evaluation of the field testing described here is based on a case study methodology.


This case study suggests that construction and population of a dementia research registry is feasible, but initial development is complex because of the ethical and organisational difficulties. Recruitment from primary care is particularly costly in terms of staff time and only identifies a very small number of people with dementia who were not already known to specialist services. Recruiting people with dementia through secondary care is a resource intensive process that takes up to six months to complete. Identifying the components of a minimum dataset was easy but its usefulness for pre-screening potential research populations has yet to be established. Acceptance rates are very high in the first clinic to recruit to the registry, but this may reflect the efforts of registry 'champions'.

Discussion and Conclusions

Easier recruitment may perpetuate potential selection biases and we are not yet able to assess the representativeness of the research-ready population recruited to the registry. The need to recruit from wider populations, through primary and social care, remains. The success of this registry will be measured by the proportion of people from it who are recruited to research projects, and its impact on overall accrual to studies.