In the UK, demonstration of patient and public involvement (PPI) is now a funding requirement. Despite advice being available to researchers regarding PPI, levels of engagement are variable. Patient involvement has been at the core of the Leeds Psychosocial Oncology and Clinical Practice Research Group since 2007 when a local Research Advisory Group (RAG) was established. In addition, we work with experienced patient advocates from national groups.
The RAG is led by designated researchers who manage and communicate with members. The RAG is invited to twice yearly meetings with the full research team when study findings are disseminated and advice sought. The meetings are also an opportunity to socialise and thank members. Effective partnerships and engagement require good communication, building relationships over time and tailoring involvement to individuals’ skills and experience.
Patients have been involved in design, planning new projects and assisting with grant proposals; development, pilot testing of interview strategies and question generation, project steering groups and management teams, development of self-management advice for online patient portals; implementation, extensive beta testing of new questionnaire builder software to enable collection of online patient-reported outcomes (PRO) and study websites, cognitive interviews to develop PRO items; dissemination, co-authorship of papers and presentations, attendance/representation of the group at conferences.
The involvement of patient advocates is integral to ensuring PRO development remains patient-centred. Having a co-operative, well-established local PPI group and nationally active patient collaborators has had a rewarding and significant impact on our research programmes.