Surgical Trainees

Information for Surgical Trainees

The Sunflower study – funded by the NIHR HTA – is the UK’s largest RCT investigating the management of patients with gallstone disease. It aims to compare the clinical and cost-effectiveness of expectant management and MRCP prior to laparoscopic cholecystectomy and will recruit over 13,500 patients from more than 50 UK hospitals. The contributions of trainees are therefore vital, and we are very much looking forward to working with you!

If you are a trainee interested in taking part, please write to (Academic Clinical Lecturer at the University of Bristol) or (Senior Administrator at the University of Bristol).

Click here for: Frequently Asked Questions for Surgical Trainees

We look forward to meeting you and working with you on this exciting and ambitious study. Please follow the study’s twitter: @SunflowerStudy and join our Facebook group ‘The Sunflower Study’.

Infographic showing the main features of the study

Study flow diagram

Trainee benefits of being involved in the Sunflower study

Sub studies: We are designing and delivering a variety of sub-studies. Some of these will be instigated by the Sunflower study team and others by trainees. If you would like to put forward an idea, we would very much like to hear from you! Please email or

Research logbook: We have worked hard to ensure that all of your efforts are recognised: screening and identifying eligible patients, recruitment consultations, collecting baseline or follow up data, and co-ordinating trainees’ efforts on a local or regional level. Much like an operative logbook, we will be able to provide you with a breakdown of your activities at regular intervals, to demonstrate your contributions for the purposes of ARCPs, interviews, portfolios etc.

CCT requirements: Participating in the Sunflower study will provide you with the opportunity to complete various CCT requirements, including: i) GCP training, ii) leadership role, iii) recruitment of patients to a national study, iv) research methods training. We will also provide you with training in how to best recruit patients into an RCT, see FAQs below.

NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme

We fully endorse this exciting new scheme run by the NIHR. We will be looking for associate PIs in every recruiting centre.

The scheme helps junior doctors to be PIs of the future. It aims to engage, recognise and promote junior doctor engagement in NIHR portfolio research. It was developed by the West Midlands Research Collaborative, Birmingham Surgical Trials Consortium, Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit and the West Midlands NIHR Clinical Research Network.

The Associate PI scheme has been endorsed by the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s (CRN) Cancer, Surgery and Oral & Dental Specialty Cluster and the Royal College of Surgeons (England).

There can be one Associate PI per site, per study, at any given time. A commitment of at least 6 months will be required for gaining Associate PI status, after which the NIHR CRN will issue a certificate to confirm Associate PI status.

The study has been given special permission to have a radiology Associate PI alongside the surgical API.
Mr. Jonathan Rees, PI at University Hospitals Bristol, outlined the benefits:
“Having a radiology API has given us a link to the team who provides our key investigation in the trial i.e. MRCP. It has been exceedingly informative exploring MRCP requesting and the relationship between the quality of information provided and the likelihood of finding a bile duct stone. These findings have helped us develop a strategy for the MRI scanner team to decline or accept requests for MRCP and also flag patients to the Sunflower study with auto- reporting with text that says – refer to Sunflower study.”

Please email if you would like to be considered for this prestigious role. If you have any queries about the scheme, you can contact or find further information on the scheme at the NIHR website.

Trainee roles and responsibilities in the Sunflower study

Regional lead

Manage day to day queries from local leads and collaborators within their geographic region

Disseminate information about the study to participating centres in their geographic region

Help to recruit local leads and collaborators

Present the study at regional educational and research meetings

Liaise with the central Sunflower team to update on progress and problems

If their hospital is participating in the study:

Identify and recruit patients

Contribute to completion of case report forms and follow up data

Work within the local research team (consultants, trainees, nurses)


Local lead

Act as an official Associate PI, within the scheme endorsed by the NIHR (see separate documentation)

Work with the consultant PI to lead the project in a single institution

Recruit and manage local collaborators

Present the study at local departmental meetings

Identify and recruit patients

Contribute to completion of case report forms and follow up data

Work within the local research team (consultants, trainees, nurses)


Local collaborator

Identify and recruit patients

Contribute to completion of case report forms and follow up data

Work within the local research team (consultants, trainees, nurses)

Map of participating sites – as of 29/07/2020

Recruitment Flow Diagram