Following on from a successful first gathering at the end of May of PPI leads from Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs) and Patient Safety Translational Research Centres, the Oxford BRC and Oxford Health BRC hosted a second, smaller event on 6th September. Supported by the Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) and INVOLVE, this time the event was just for PPI leads and managers from BRCs.
The agenda for the day focused on key challenges that had been identified from the first get-together, namely strategy development and how to evaluate the impact of PPI. These are both areas where it’s recognised that there are many unknowns and hurdles to overcome, among them even the simple fact that a significant proportion of PPI leads/managers have no prior experience of strategy writing. A substantial amount of the day was devoted to these topics with presentations followed by small group work where delegates had the opportunity to share their progress so far and hear about how other people are going about tackling these areas of work.
As is so often the case, these sessions threw up almost as many questions as answers, in particular around impact – one example is how the non-linear, ‘ripple’ effects of PPI can make this so difficult to assess. Therefore, it was reassuring to hear from Simon Denegri that impact is a priority for NIHR and the Department of Health, with the aim of producing an ‘experience-based’ strategy for impact that builds on Going the Extra Mile. Simon was keen to point out that this will be a national level initiative, and input from BRC PPI leads about what is happening locally will be key to creating it, with a bank of supporting case studies alongside.
Beth Allen from the Department of Health gave a helpful update on the main areas of focus for NIHR, and especially emphasised how the research it funds must address the predicted health needs of the UK public for the next 20 years. She also mentioned that they had met with the new health minister who had asked about the impact of NIHR research on patients. It was also useful to hear from the CCF about how annual reporting for involvement, engagement and participation of patients and the public will need to be done slightly differently and more simply in future.
Senior NIHR staff and two public contributors put forward ideas and suggestions that helped to guide thinking and conversations during the day, as well providing advice and insights. Among these was the proposal to find ways that researchers, clinicians and members of the public can train together, given that we are all essentially the same ‘team’. The day ended with a discussion about the future of the group and how to sustain it, in that there is obviously an appetite for more events such as this, which provide a welcome opportunity to share frustrations and triumphs, and to pick the brains of others in similar roles.
Polly Kerr, PPI Manager