Building on our Shared Commitment - a blog by Barbara Molony-Oates

Last updated on 25 May 2023

Our Public Involvement Manager Barbara Molony-Oates blogs about why our Shared Commitment Committing to Change event was a crucial and important first step towards developing bold and ambitious actions to drive this important work forward.

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We launched the Shared Commitment to Public Involvement in March 2022 with 12 other leading health and social care organisations to improve the quality of public involvement in health research.

Since then, we’ve grown to 17 organisations, including NHS England, and we have many more big and small organisations wanting to join.

Getting 17 organisations to sign up to our joint pledge was a massive undertaking and something we’re immensely proud of, but we also recognise that the work doesn’t end there.

If we are truly serious about embedding public involvement in health and social care research, then we need to go further.

It was with this in mind that we decided to hold our Shared Commitment Committing to Change event with our 17 partners.

We wanted the event, which was held towards the end of April, to be three things:

  • an opportunity for people to network and collaborate.
  • a chance to share learning
  • a chance for us to make commitments of what we're going to do in the coming year both individually and in partnerships to further the aims of the Shared Commitment

This was an ambitious plan, and impossible for all of us to achieve considering we only had a few hours, and not everyone attending was in the position to make decisions about what their organisation could commit to, but we made a start.

Jim Elliott, Public Involvement Lead at the HRA, and Jeremy Taylor, Director of Public Voice at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), opened the day sharing their excitement of being together, of the launch and growth of the Shared Commitment, and of the opportunity for us to collaborate to help change the behaviour of researchers, and support them to involve people with lived experience as early as possible in their research.

During his opening speech our Chief Executive Matt Westmore talked about the importance of making sure that people have a voice in the health and social care research sector, and about being open, honest and transparent when we include and when we exclude people, what we are able to change now, and what we need to work on together to change in the future. He recognised that some of the challenges that we all need to work on will take time, and this is most definitely not a sprint but a marathon, and that the Shared Commitment is a pledge for us all to work on these difficult challenges together.

He then challenged the executive sponsors FOR each of our organisations in the room to create the environment, provide the resources, champion, and support everyone in our organisations who is involved in the Shared Commitment.

Lucy Chappell, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor and Chief Executive of the NIHR, delivered the keynote speech. She reinforced what a huge milestone the Shared Commitment to Public Involvement is, in the drive to make sure that public involvement becomes so mainstream in health and social care research that nobody questions it.  Her endorsement and support of the initiative adds weight, which can help partners prioritise and drive forward improvements in public involvement within their own organisations.

During the afternoon session our partner organisations got together in breakout groups where we discussed upskilling, inclusion, and the impact of our work.

Following on from our breakout sessions we came up with several initial commitments to help drive our work forward.

For example, a number of us have already committed to sharing, testing and evaluating the PIRIT impact tool, which was co-developed by public contributors and staff from the Marie Curie research centre and the Wales Cancer Research Centre.

More actions and commitments will follow once our partners make decisions about which areas they can support.

This is an important and crucial step which lays the groundwork for our future development and means that we are in a much better position to build on what we have achieved so far and set tangible goals for our work.

But the most powerful part of the day were the speeches from our two public contributors Margaret Grayson and Cherelle Augustine

Through their very wise, and at times tough words, they reminded us all why we launched the Shared Commitment and the importance of getting it right.

As Cherelle, said in her closing remarks ‘remember when you’re working with a patient, it might be your job, but it’s my life. You can get a new job. I can’t get another life.’

With that firmly in my mind, I think it’s fair to say I ended the event feeling more energised and committed to the Shared Commitment than ever before.

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