Linking a research register to clinical records in older adults' mental health services: a mixed-methods study

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INTRODUCTION: Patients can provide consent to have their clinical records linked to a research register, a process known as consent for contact (C4C). There is evidence about how to engage people with mental illness in C4C, but nothing specific to older adults. This is a priority area for research (for example, dementia trials), although sign-up rates to C4C are lower than for younger populations. Through this study we seek to understand these disparities.

METHODS: This was a two-stage cross-sectional observational study. In phase one, focus groups with service users, carers and clinicians informed a framework for clinicians to explain C4C to those on their caseload. In phase two, clinicians explained C4C to 26 service users (and carers where applicable). These conversations were recorded, and their content was analysed. Service users and carers were then interviewed to provide further feedback on their conversations with clinicians. A total of 31 service users, 24 carers and 13 clinical staff took part across the two phases.

RESULTS: In phase one, service users and carers sought assurance of the right to refuse participation in further studies (after joining C4C). Clinicians expressed concerns over legal and practical implications of ascertaining mental capacity and best interest. In phase two, clinicians' explanations were less thorough than similar explanations given to younger adults with psychosis. Clinicians omitted details of service users' right to stipulate contact arrangements, which was significantly associated with whether service users/carers agreed to join. Common reasons for joining C4C included altruism and the chance to speak to new people. Few participants refused to join, but reasons included avoidance of stress (potentially alleviated through the presence of a carer).

CONCLUSIONS: Implementing C4C in older adults' services requires clinicians to deliver concise, simple explanations to individuals and their carers where applicable. Older adults can be suspicious of unsolicited contact; thus, explanations must emphasise freedom to negotiate suitable contact arrangements. Hearing about research opportunities can be in the best interests of older adults, but communicating these opportunities requires a tailored approach.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalAlzheimer's research & therapy
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


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