UK Biobank is a major UK medical research initiative, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis and forms of dementia. Imprimus were appointed to help recruit 500,000 participants over three and a half years.
Scientists have known for many years that the risks of developing different diseases are due to the complex interplay of different factors: our lifestyle and environment; our personal susceptibility; and luck. To help determine the main avoidable causes of various chronic diseases, there is a need to establish some large blood-based studies with prolonged follow-up of mortality and major morbidity.
UK Biobank was set up to recruit 500,000 people from all around the UK who are currently aged 40-69 over a three and a half year period. “Because we were aiming for such a high number of people to take part, the way we went about recruiting them was really important”, said Nicola Doherty, Senior Clinical Study Administrator at UK Biobank.
UK Biobank appointed Imprimus to provide the printing and mailing of about 9 million communications. This was to include three stages of communication, the first being an invitation letter inviting members of the public to participate in the study with a pre-completed registration form to return.
The second was a confirmation letter including full colour map with directions to the assessment centre and booklets with more information on the study, and the final was a reminder postcard that Imprimus designed with a calendar highlighting the date and time of the appointment. “This was a really nice piece and Imprimus being able to design this took away the headache and expense of appointing an external design agency,” said Nicola.
“The recruitment of participants on this scale was new to us and we needed a company that could support and advise us. Imprimus made a number of suggestions, for instance, we needed to post 100,000 letters a week and Imprimus advised us on how we could save money on postage by switching to a downstream supplier.”
Reliability and data security were also big concerns for UK Biobank as they needed to be sure communications were going to be delivered on time and that the names and addresses of millions of people were in safe hands. Imprimus have the necessary accreditations to meet these requirements.
“UK Biobank reached the target of recruiting 500,000 participants within budget and the project timescale. “The recruitment mailing has been a significant part of the whole process, as without participants there would be no study,” said Nicola.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times on the invitation front, with volumes peaking over the £100k mark some weeks and then dropping to more lowly levels at other times. However, Imprimus has the flexibility to be able to cope with such varying demands – often at short notice – and this has been a great benefit to us.
“Imprimus has been great, they have come across as a multi-faceted company that can deal with lots of different types of mail, arrange stock and advise on all aspects of print and mail.
“Given that this element of the process has been so key in the successful completion of the first phase of the project, we are delighted it has gone so smoothly.”
“We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Imprimus and we look forward to this continuing. We have recruited the required number of people but we need to keep in regular touch, inviting them to come back for more tests.
“We are also going to send out a newsletter to thank participants for taking part and this is something on which we plan to work with Imprimus.”
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