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Why is it so difficult to get GPs to take part in research?

After spending the past month attempting to recruit GPs to take part in an interview study, I’m kind of running out patience. Of course, I am not the first person banging my head, the lowest response rate I’ve seen in a published study is 7% (in Curnock, Bowie, Pope, & McKay, 2012) and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ones below that level were just flatly refused for publication.

The GPs were promised payment of £80 an hour. I also sent them letters with silky university letterheads, hand signatures, hand written envelopes, and stamped return addresses. I then rang them up – and even then only one acceptance and little enthusiasm from others.

How do I get them to participate?

What are the secrets behind recruiting GPs to take part in interviews/focus groups?

Reference: Curnock, E., Bowie, P., Pope, L., & McKay, J. (2012). Barriers and attitudes influencing non-engagement in a peer feedback model to inform evidence for GP appraisal. BMC medical education, 12(1), 15. doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-15

NB: Many people responded to this plea for help on Twitter, and their responses have been gathered together in this post: 10 ways to increase GP participation in research


Published in Research Research Research Methods sub-featured


  1. Hello Salma,

    Think we are just very busy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the money. When you are in the practice for 10-11 hours there just isn’t time left over for an interview no matter how much someone is going to pay you. You can’t use that money there and then to pay someone else to do the work you have to do during that time. That’s why the suggestions saying to look at CPD slots are good. Once OU are away from the practice, and don’t have patients to see, it is easier to agree to a short interview there and then.

    Is that helpful?


  2. Salma Patel Salma Patel

    Hi Anne,

    Many thanks for taking the time out to reply 🙂 I understand that GPs are very busy people, and I was under the impression that as they would be paid, the practice would arrange to get cover for that one hour.

    How does one go about arranging interviews in CPD slots? And what exactly are CPD slots?


  3. You can’t get cover for 1 hour. Locus are booked for a session eg half day or at least for several hours of a surgery. No locus would turn up for just 1hr as far as I know. R are you hoping to get 2 -3 gps sing one luck in a morning? It’s always unpredictable- 1 hour of booked appointments end up taking 90 mins say.

  4. Re CPD I thought you were going along to some CPD sessions organised by PCT? I’d try to see if I could interview a GP after the session ended? Might that be possible? These sessions tend to finish earlier than a normal working da which is why I nought might work. Bu they might not happen during h day in your area.

  5. Salma Patel Salma Patel

    Thanks Anne, I understand now.

    I’m planning on going to CPD sessions to give out questionnaires, and not to do interviews. I’ll look into that option too. Thank you


  6. Salma Patel Salma Patel

    Don’t worry Anne, auto correct on iPhone really annoys me too (must be an Apple thing!)

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