Open Access Research article

Lessons learnt recruiting to a multi-site UK cohort study to explore recovery of health and well-being after colorectal cancer (CREW study)

Deborah Fenlon1, Kim Chivers Seymour1, Ikumi Okamoto1, Jane Winter2, Alison Richardson12, Julia Addington-Hall1, Jessica L Corner1, Peter W Smith1, Christine M May1, Matthew Breckons3 and Claire Foster1*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK

2 Southampton General Hospital, University of Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Tremona Rd, Southampton, Hampshire SO16 6YD, UK

3 Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 7RU, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2013, 13:153  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-13-153

Published: 28 December 2013



The UK leads the world in recruitment of patients to cancer clinical trials, with a six-fold increase in recruitment during 2001–2010. However, there are large variations across cancer centres. This paper details recruitment to a large multi-centre prospective cohort study and discusses lessons learnt to enhance recruitment.


During CREW (ColoREctal Wellbeing) cohort study set up and recruitment, data were systematically collected on all centres that applied to participate, time from study approval to first participant recruited and the percentage of eligible patients recruited into the study.


30 participating NHS cancer centres were selected through an open competition via the cancer networks. Time from study approval to first participant recruited took a median 124 days (min 53, max 290). Of 1350 eligible people in the study time frame, 78% (n = 1056) were recruited into the study, varying from 30-100% eligible across centres. Recruitment of 1056 participants took 17 months.


In partnership with the National Cancer Research Network, this successful study prioritised relationship building and education. Key points for effective recruitment: pre-screening and selection of centres; nurses as PIs; attendance at study days; frequent communication and a reduced level of consent to enhance uptake amongst underrepresented groups.

Cohort; Colorectal cancer; Health and wellbeing; Study processes; Recruitment