Mobilising knowledge between practitioners and researchers to iteratively refine a complex intervention (DAFNE) pre-trial: protocol for a structured, collaborative working group process

Jenna P Breckenridge (Lead / Corresponding author), Carla Gianfrancesco, Nicole de Zoysa, Julia Lawton, David Rankin, Elizabeth Coates

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    9 Citations (Scopus)
    137 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of complex interventions often begin with a pilot phase to test the proposed methods and refine the intervention before it is trialled. Although the Medical Research Council (MRC) recommends regular communication between the practitioners delivering the intervention and the researchers evaluating it during the pilot phase, there is a lack of practical guidance about how to undertake this aspect of pre-trial work. This paper describes a novel structured process for collaborative working, which we developed to iteratively refine a complex intervention prior to an RCT. We also describe an in-built qualitative study to learn lessons about how this approach could be used by future study teams.

    Methods: This work forms part of a broader research programme to develop and trial a complex intervention for people with type 1 diabetes, called DAFNEplus. The intervention is being piloted in three National Health Service (NHS) diabetes centres in two waves, with refinements being incrementally implemented between each wave in response to real-time, collective learning (combining practitioner experience, process evaluation data and patient and public involvement via an advisory group). A structured 'Collaborative Working Group' (CWG) process, comprising monthly teleconferences and four strategically timed face-to-face meetings, is being used to identify and respond systematically to emerging implementation challenges and research findings. The group involves 25 members of the study team, including the multi-disciplinary practitioners delivering the intervention, the research teams conducting the process evaluation, the study manager and Chief Investigator. An in-built qualitative study comprising documentary analysis of meeting materials, discourse analysis of meeting transcripts, reflexive note taking, and thematic analysis of focus groups and interviews with CWG members is being undertaken to explore how the CWG works and how its processes and procedures might be improved.

    Discussion: The CWG process offers a potential model for collaborative working in future pre-trial pilot phases and intervention development studies that operationalises MRC guidance to progressively develop a complex intervention and foster shared ownership through genuine collaboration. The findings from the qualitative study will provide insight into how to best support collaborative working to achieve optimal intervention design.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number120
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
    Early online date3 Jul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • Knowledge mobilisation
    • Intervention development
    • Process evaluation
    • Qualitative research
    • Type 1 diabetes
    • Pilot study
    • Feasibility study
    • Collaborative working
    • Co-design


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