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The University of Southampton
Primary Care

Public involvement and engagement

What is Patient and Public Involvement?

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) is research that is done ‘with’ or ‘by’ the public and not ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them.  This is the definition by INVOLVE, which is the government funded national advisory group who aim to advance public involvement in research.

Involving the public ensures that researchers are putting public need and opinion at the centre of their research. Members of the public who choose to become involved in research are known as ‘Public Contributors’. Within our department there are a number of different opportunities for Public contributors to get involved in research in this way.

Why is public involvement in research important?

Patients and the public provide a different perspective to that of the researchers and this is incredibly valuable. Sharing this perspective with researchers ensures that the researchers develop the right research question. It also helps researchers to select the most relevant health outcomes to use in their study. In addition, public involvement also improves the experience for those people who are actually being recruited into a study.

Recruitment and retention of participants in studies is often a challenge. PPI input can enhance any literature, provided to patients, by ensuring the information isn't bewildering. Hopefully, this helps to keep them involved and the research to achieve its objectives (Jill, Public Contributor).

Ultimately, this will improve the quality of the research.  Public involvement can also help to improve the communication of research findings to the study participants and public at large.

Given the value of public involvement in research it is not surprising that most funders now require all researchers to include a patient and public involvement plan in their research funding applications.


What are the benefits of getting involved?

People get involved in research for a number of different reasons. Some people have a special interest in a particular illness and wish to learn more as well as influence patient choice and treatment options.

I am particularly pleased to be involved in this study because I believe that it is important for mental health research to focus on developing support for primary care clinicians, who are increasingly taking on the delivery of care to patients who would once only have been seen in the acute sector. (Sue, Public Contributor)

Public involvement is an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and develop your understanding of NHS research.

I am not an academic but an elderly ordinary member of the public. I find the research work fascinating and appreciate the knowledge I gain from working with eminent Professors and Doctors. (Margaret, Public Contributor)

Anyone can get involved in Primary Care research. You do not need any qualifications. People getting involved often report that it is a rewarding and positive experience.

As a PPI participant I have found it rewarding to see my views both listened to and acted upon particularly in respect of a questionnaire for parents involved in the research project. (Kirsty, Public Contributor)

What is Primary Care Research and who are we?

Research is about finding answers to questions regarding how we treat and manage conditions and illnesses in the Primary Care setting, making sure that what we consider to be the best approach is in fact the right choice. Primary Care is healthcare in the community, this includes everything from GPs to Pharmacists and Community Nurses. At the University of Southampton Primary Care and Population Sciences Department our research focuses on common illnesses and conditions which people often visit their GP or nurse about.

Our Department is one of nine Primary Care Research centres throughout England who work in partnership collaborating on many different Primary care studies. This partnership is known as the ‘NIHR School for Primary Care Research’.

If you are interested in getting involved in our research or if you would like to know more please contact Sonia Newman.

What do Public Contributors help with?

Within our department, there are a variety different opportunities for Public Contributor involvement.

I have worked on many topics which include nursing care, depression, English and Chinese flower herbal remedies for Upper and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections. (Margaret, Public Contributor)

The role of the Public Contributor will also differ from study to study. Some studies might only require a one-off task such as reading a patient information leaflet while others will require longer term commitment, for example working on a study from the very earliest design stages right through to publicising or sharing study results.

The ‘research cycle’ is a term which is often used to describe the life cycle of a research study from the initial research idea through to communication of the research findings. Researchers are encouraged to involve Public Contributors in each step of that research cycle.

We currently have several studies which are looking for Public Contributors. We also have different opportunities for Public Contributors to work alongside our Patient and Public Involvement Officer Sonia Newman, supporting some of our collaborative partnerships or supporting Sonia with Public Outreach work.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Public Contributor then please contact Sonia Newman.

Meet our PPI Team and find out about how you can get involved

We are a very friendly team led by Sonia Newman (Patient and Public Involvement Officer) and supported by Dr Miriam Santer  (Associate Professor in Primary Care Research).

If you are interested in getting involved in our research or if you would like to know more please contact Sonia Newman.

Information for Researchers

If you need advice or support with Patient and Public Involvement on your study then please get in contact with our PPI Officer Sonia Newman. 

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