Public involvement is important, expected, and possible in all types of health and social care research. Excellent public involvement is integral to the design and conduct of health and social care research and it has been shown to improve its quality and impact.

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When we talk about public involvement, we mean all the ways in which the research community works together with people, including patients, carers, advocates, service users, and members of the community.

Excellent public involvement is inclusive, values all contributions, ensures people have a meaningful say in what happens and influences outcomes, as set out in the UK Standards for Public Involvement.

The evaluation of the COVID-19 public involvement matching service completed by the Health Research Authority (HRA) in 2021 highlighted that public involvement isn’t integrated as normal practice into health and social care research across all sectors and throughout the UK due to gaps in four key areas.

Four key gaps
Communication A lack of clear, consistent high-level messaging about the nature, value and factors that can support public involvement.
Information A lack of universal shared, high-quality information to support effective, inclusive and diverse public involvement.
Collaboration A lack of resources and cross-system working needed to underpin a research culture with public involvement at its heart
Leadership A lack of clear, cross-sector direction for public involvement in all health and social care research.

The evaluation report proposed that research funders and sponsors and other organisations across the health and social care research system develop a UK-wide, all-sector Shared Commitment to Public Involvement in health and social care research.

The aim of developing the Shared Commitment was to ensure all health and social care researchers regardless of their location or source of funding receive a consistent message about the importance of public involvement.

The partners commit to provide guidance and support to researchers so that they can involve the public in line with the UK Standards for Public Involvement.

The Government’s recently published strategies on the future of clinical research delivery and research and development people and culture present a key opportunity to build on the learning from evaluation of the COVID-19 matching service and make public involvement business as usual for all research that recruits people, samples or data across the UK.

How we started

The HRA and the National Institute for Health and Care Research brought together an initial group of 11 other health and social care organisations from across the UK.

Each partner organisation was asked to bring a team of people together at an initial meeting in September 2021. They included:

Public Contributors

They are patients and members of the public who work alongside the host organisations in involvement and engagement with health and social care research, but are not employed by them.

Public Involvement leads

They are employed by the host organisations to lead their work on the involvement and engagement of patients and members of the public and are responsible for driving the commitment  forward within their organisation.

Communications and engagement leads

They are communications and engagement specialists who support the active dissemination and mobilisation of this work with the communities whose behaviour we are trying to change.

Executive Sponsors

They are executive level staff who signed the Shared Commitment statement for their organisation and champion this work within their organisation’s board, making sure it is understood as an organisational priority, that it gets the attention and resources it needs, and that it suitably influences the organisational strategy.

This group worked together to write the Shared Commitment statement which we jointly published on 11 March 2022.

Next steps

Once the Shared Commitment had been launched, the work began to deliver on the commitments that we made. The partner organisations are acting both individually and collectively to drive change.  As a partnership we have the ability to raise the profile, value and importance of public involvement in health and social care research.

We are keen to invite organisations and membership organisations who fund, support or regulate health and social care research to join us as partners in this collaborative commitment.  Together we can transform health and social care research by celebrating, supporting and guiding the research community to embed excellent public involvement in all of their work.

How to get involved

If you would like to help promote, support and amplify excellent public involvement in health and social care research, please visit our webpage on how to join.

Shared Commitment partners

Read the list of our Shared Commitment partners

Back to putting people first - embedding public involvement in health and social care research