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The University of Southampton
Primary Care Research Centre

Patient & Public Involvement (PPI)

What is PPI?

PPI is research that is done ‘with’ or ‘by’ the public (including patients) and not simply ‘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 School there are many different opportunities for Public contributors to get involved in research in this way.

Why is PPI in research important?

PPI provides a different perspective to that of the researchers and this is incredibly valuable. Sharing this perspective with researchers ensures that they develop the right research questions. It also helps them to select the most relevant health outcomes to use in their study. In addition, PPI also improves the experience for those people who are recruited into a study.

“Recruitment and retention of participants in studies is often a challenge. PPI input can enhance any literature 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, PPI will improve the quality of the research.  It can also help to improve the communication of research findings to the study participants and public at large.

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

What are the benefits of getting involved?

People get involved in research for 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).

PPI 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 in this way. 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 that takes place outside hospitals.  

Primary Care Research Centre at the University of Southampton focuses on common illnesses and conditions which people often visit their GP or nurse about. Our Centre 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’.

What do Public Contributors help with?

Within our School, there are a variety of 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 differs 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 and dissemination of the research findings. Researchers are encouraged to involve Public Contributors in each step of that research cycle.

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

We are a very friendly team led by Sonia Newman and Carolyn Asher (PPIE Officers) and supported by Dr Miriam Santer  (Professor in Primary Care Research). Our Primary Care lead Public Contributors are: Tressa Davey, Jean Hughes, John McGavin and Kate Sykes.

Find out more about how we're improving public involvement at the Primary Care Research Centre by reading our PPIE Strategy.

If you are interested in getting involved in our research or if you would like to become a Public Contributor you can register your interest by completing our Patient and Public Involvement Registration Form. Please also see our Welcome pack for patient and public involvement with the Primary Care Research Centre or you can contact Sonia and Carolyn at

Information for Researchers

For early support with your grant application including help to plan your PPI strategy, please contact: Heather Parsons - and Megan Bawlow-Pay - PPI Officers at the Research Design Service (RDS) South Central. For advice or support with overall PPI strategy, best practice, resources and information for your funded project, please contact our PPIE Officers Sonia Newman and Carolyn Asher at

The Wessex Public Involvement Network
The Wessex Public Involvement Network

PPI SharePoint link

Patient and Public Involvement SharePoint site - Internal users only.

If you are a member of the Primary Care Research Centre and cannot access this link please request access and email Jane Cousins at

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