Trial design Cluster randomised controlled trial.
Objective To compare current practice for encouraging homeless people to be screened for tuberculosis on a mobile digital X-ray unit in London, UK, with the additional use of volunteer peer educators who have direct experience of tuberculosis, homelessness or both.
Participants 46 hostels took part in the study, with a total of 2342 residents eligible for screening. The study took place between February 2012 and October 2013 at homeless hostels in London, UK.
Intervention At intervention sites, volunteer peer educators agreed to a work plan that involved moving around the hostel in conjunction with the hostel staff, and speaking to residents in order to encourage them to attend the screening.
Randomisation Cluster randomisation (by hostel) was performed using an internet-based service to ensure allocation concealment, with minimisation by hostel size and historical screening uptake.
Blinding Only the study statistician was blinded to the allocation of intervention or control arms.
Primary outcome The primary outcome was the number of eligible clients at a hostel venue screened for active pulmonary tuberculosis by the mobile X-ray unit.
Results A total of 59 hostels were considered for eligibility and 46 were randomised. Control sites had a total of 1192 residents, with a median uptake of 45% (IQR 33–55). Intervention sites had 1150 eligible residents with a median uptake of 40% (IQR 25–61). Using Poisson regression to account for the clustered study design, hostel size and historical screening levels, there was no evidence that peer educators increased uptake (adjusted risk ratio 0.98; 95% CIs 0.80 to 1.20). The study team noted no adverse events.
Conclusions This study found no evidence that volunteer peer educators increased client uptake of mobile X-ray unit screening for tuberculosis. Further qualitative work should be undertaken to explore the possible ancillary benefits to peer volunteers.
Trial registration number ISRCTN17270334.
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