Patient involvement training in research offers immediate benefits and is highly rated by staff

Patient and public involvement (PPI) training brings about immediate and marked increases in the confidence and skills of researchers to involve the public in their work, according to a study at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at UCLH.

Evaluation of the PPI training run by the BRC between 2014 and 2018 found the proportion of training attendees who reported a good understanding of PPI went up significantly from 27% before training to 87% afterwards. And while only 17% felt they knew about the resources available to help them with PPI prior to training, this rose to 80% following training. Over 95% of attendees rated the training as very good or excellent.

Published in BMJ Open, the study is an analysis of 72 workshops with 721 attendees carried over a four-year period by the BRC. Analysis suggests researchers attending the training were more likely to involve patients and the public in their research afterwards.

The workshops, which were developed in collaboration with patient partners, attracted a range of professionals 721 attendees, including medical consultants, scientists, research administrators, statisticians, dieticians, dentists, public health specialists, physiotherapists, clinical service managers and psychologists.

The PPI team surveyed training attendees prior to training, immediately after training, and six months after training.

Dr Rosamund Yu, lead author of the paper, said: “Our findings suggested sustained levels of increased confidence and skills in carrying out PPI in research six months after the training, with two-thirds of attendees going on to involve their patients and public in their research in some way after the workshops. We saw a virtuous cycle too, where increased confidence appeared to enable researchers to involve the public in their work and experience first-hand the value of PPI, and build up their confidence even more.”

Involvement activities carried out after the training included: prioritising research topics; designing a study protocol and writing patient information materials and consent forms.

The study team said PPI training should be considered a fundamental part of developing the involvement of the public in research.

It is known that public involvement can improve the quality and relevance of research. As a result, patient and public involvement is increasingly an expectation if not a requirement of research funders.

Dr Nick McNally, Managing Director of Research at UCLH and UCL, said: “We are proud at UCLH to offer our patients the chance to get heavily involved in shaping research alongside our clinicians and scientists. The results of this evaluation show how important our training is in enabling this involvement activity to take place, and our training offering can serve as a template to others who wish to build up the PPI capabilities of research staff.”

PPI training at the UCLH BRC runs throughout the academic year, with the next sessions starting in September 2021. Workshops include an introduction to PPI, and sessions on how to find patients partners and keep them engaged, and how to run patient focus groups. Since the pandemic training has moved online.

Read the paper: Evaluation of a patient and public involvement training programme for researchers at a large biomedical research centre in the UK – BMJ Open, 12 August 2021.