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Praise for new public involvement COVID-19 matching service

Last updated on 25 Jun 2020

Patients and researchers have praised our new COVID-19 matching service which was set up last month to connect research teams with public involvement expertise.

Users of the new service like the quick turnaround and the quality of public involvement they received. Meanwhile feedback shows those contributing feel they are doing something valuable and making a real difference. 

The new service is aimed at research teams setting up COVID-19 research, who don’t already have connections with public involvement groups, networks, or individuals. Through this new service, we match these researchers with a network or group with relevant public involvement experience, who can arrange input rapidly and at short notice.

So far, 39 public involvement networks across the UK have added their details to the service, with around 6000 members collectively. We have helped to facilitate public contributions to 13 COVID-19 research applications. 

We urge anyone planning to submit COVID-19 research to involve people with relevant lived experience. These people can provide valuable knowledge and experience, which can lead to higher quality research and make it easier to recruit and retain participants. 

One researcher matched by us to a public involvement group said:

‘The people who helped us were highly relevant, dedicated and motivated. They provided detailed and constructive feedback, which led to changes that I believe have massively helped with recruitment.’ 

Public involvement is important and expected in COVID-19 research as much as it is for other research. It is also possible to involve patients and the public to the same rapid timescale that studies are being designed and set up.

Public contributors understand the speed which is needed with this type of research and are motivated to help. 

When asked why they wanted to get involved, one contributor said:

‘I feel I can be of help and this is something that affects ALL of us. I see COVID-19 as our enemy and if I can be of help, I want to be.’

Patient and public involvement leads, who coordinate public involvement groups and networks, are also reporting positive results after using the service. 

One patient and public involvement lead told us:

‘If you are transparent about what’s involved, and clear about what needs to be accomplished, I learnt that rapid public involvement is achievable. I certainly saw how the rich and detailed feedback our public contributors provided made a real difference to this project.’

Another public involvement manager said:

‘Despite the quick turnaround, by using various communication methods and the enthusiasm of public contributors we have worked with previously, we were able to meet all the standards we value and ensure the public were genuinely involved in this project.’

If you’re planning to submit a COVID-19 study for fast-track review and don’t have connections with any public involvement groups, please contact fast.track@hra.nhs.uk for support.

If you coordinate a public involvement group and want your members to be included, please contact public.involvement@hra.nhs.uk for more information on how to get involved.

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