Quick links: What is a PIC? / Overview of the role of PICs / Things to consider / Contracting arrangements / Glossary

How to guide: Understanding the role of PICs

This guide outlines key information about the role of the Participant Identification Centre (PIC). PICs are NHS/HSC organisations that identify potential research participants to be recruited at a separate research site, should they wish to participate.

Key information you should be aware of:

Practice staff should be aware of their responsibilities with regard to research and should only take part in approved studies. Practices continue to be responsible for their own patients’ care but PICs are not research sites and are not treated in the same way as research sites. Practices should understand study requirements and what can and can’t be done by reviewing the study protocol and Organisational Information Document (OID) and should ensure that data protection guidance is followed.


Full guide

What is a PIC?

Participant Identification Centres (PICs) are NHS/HSC organisations that identify potential research participants.

A GP practice is operating as a PIC if its role involves:

Overview of the role of PICs

Some studies recruit participants via general practices but then any further research activity takes place in another setting e.g. a hospital. These are known as Participant Identification Centre (PIC) studies.

If a GP practice agrees to be a study PIC then the study team does not have permission to carry out research activity at the practice but general practices can be involved in supporting recruitment to studies by identifying participants. This can involve:

A practice is not acting as a PIC if:

Advertising opportunities to participate in studies e.g. via a poster in a waiting room, is not PIC activity, so any practice can do this without a formal agreement.

If the study requires the health care professional to consent patients or carry out any other research activity (e.g. follow-up tests) then it is should be treated as a full research study and not as PIC activity.

PIC activity for NHS organisations in England may only commence once:

Things to consider

If you are considering whether to be a study PIC you should consider:   

Contracting arrangements

As per IRAS guidance: NHS/HSC PICs should be set up by through a sub-contracting arrangement with the participating NHS/HSC organisation that the PIC supports. Appropriate data processing arrangements should be put in place by using the appropriate agreement. Best practice is for studies to use a model agreement:


Glossary of Acronyms and Terms


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