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Improving how we work with patients, carers and the public

NIHR Strategic Commitments for Public Partnerships 2025-2030

NIHR has renewed and updated its commitments to partnering with patients and the public. We have stepped up our ambitions and will implement detailed plans to achieve them up to 2030. Our commitments reflect the NIHR operating principles of inclusion and impact: without engaging the public the NIHR will not maximise the delivery of health benefits to the diverse population of the UK.

NIHR is already committed to working in partnership with patients, service users, carers and communities. We call this public partnerships, and it is how we ensure that our research reflects what matters to people and communities, and their lived experience of health and care issues.

Public partnerships reinforce the relevance, quality and impacts of research, ensuring that research findings are used to improve health and wellbeing outcomes, tackle health inequalities, underpin services, support the UK life sciences industry and promote economic growth. Partnering with the public - across the full diversity of the population - is a necessary and integral part of doing great science.

The report Going the Extra Mile sets out a strategic direction, in the period 2015-2025, for NIHR’s public partnerships. It enabled us to embed partnership working, inspired us to work in collaboration to develop the UK Standards for Public Involvement, and it underpins our recent improvement work. Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter provided an update on NIHR's public partnerships approach.

The new Commitments

For 2025-30 we now set out 5 new Strategic Commitments for public partnerships. They represent a step change in our ambition to be diverse, inclusive and impactful in how we work with people and communities. The Commitments build on our experience to date, reflect widespread engagement, and respond to the changing environment for health and care research, including the growing demand for people-focused approaches. 

These Commitments complement the NIHR Research Inclusion Strategy and the Shared Commitment to Public Involvement, in which NIHR has joined other organisations to affirm that public involvement is ‘important, expected and possible in all types of health and social care research’.

The Commitments reflect the interconnection between people’s involvement in shaping research and their participation in studies and trials. They support the Government’s vision for enhancing UK clinical research delivery, including making it easier for people to be engaged, strengthening Be Part of Research as a key platform for engagement, and widening and diversifying participation in health and care research of all kinds.

The Commitments reflect the most significant priorities arising from extensive consultation and collaboration with many public and professional stakeholders and seek to address evidence-based good practice. They reflect where consultation has told us that NIHR needs to go further, for example in improving public contributors’ experiences of payment systems.

The Commitments will inform NIHR’s activities and our expectations of researchers and teams supported by the NIHR. They will inform NIHR’s cross-sector leadership in public partnerships and our collaboration with partners in the health and care research system. They signal our renewed intention to create meaningful opportunities for patients, the public and communities from all walks of life to engage with health and care research and thus be partners in improving the health and wealth of the nation.


Alongside the Commitments, we have published a summary report which sets out the underlying evidence base that illustrates the need for a step-change in our public partnerships.

Now that we have announced our new Commitments we will, during 2024/25, publish the first in a series of action plans, which will show how we intend to deliver against them. We will monitor, evaluate and review evidence to measure progress against these plans. This mechanism will enable transparency and accountability to the public and different stakeholder groups.

However, we are not waiting until 2025 to begin implementing the Commitments and our implementation work is already underway. For example, on the payment of public contributors, we intend to harmonise inconsistent NIHR systems, make payments easier and faster, and review involvement payment rates. On the sharing of good practice, we will make further improvements to accessibility, ease of use and content on the Learning for Involvement website. On community engagement, we will appraise options for developing more effective and joined up approaches across NIHR and with partner organisations.

The NIHR Strategic Commitments 2025-2030

 NIHR will:

1. Embed research inclusion

Make sustained progress in widening research participation, embedding research inclusion and increasing the diversity of the public and communities who participate in, shape and deliver research.


  • ensure that studies and trials have inclusive designs, so that recruitment reflects the diversity of the populations they are intended to benefit
  • increase the diversity of public contributors working with the NIHR, including those from groups which are underrepresented on committees and advisory groups, building on existing learning
  • develop and embed consistent support arrangements, aligning with the NIHR Research Inclusion Strategy, so that a more diverse range of public contributors experience inclusion
  • make it easier for people to access opportunities to be involved through improvements to NIHR’s digital channels
  • ensure all these improvements are underpinned by data, in line with NIHR’s broader Research Inclusion Strategy

2. Strengthen partnerships

Strengthen and grow mutually beneficial partnerships between researchers and communities, and their community-based organisations, to better reflect the diversity of the population. 


  • increase funding for pre-application researcher-community partnership building and ensure that this is easily accessed by charities and community groups
  • build on current best practice to strengthen and join up NIHR’s engagement with communities, in ways that work for them, collaborating with statutory agencies and the voluntary and community sector
  • fund and grow targeted partnerships with people and communities who face the most deprivation, experience inequalities or have the worst health outcomes, and with relevant voluntary and community sector organisations
  • ensure those who undertake and support research have access to training on community engagement and guidance on how to report on it

3. Improve reward and recognition

Make systems of reward and recognition for the involvement of people and communities more equitable, efficient and consistent across NIHR coordinating centres, infrastructure and research.


  • establish a minimum set of requirements for reward and recognition that embed consistency across academic, NHS, and other sites
  • review NIHR payment rates
  • strengthen requirements for organisations with NIHR funding to have systems that consistently enable easy and quick payments for diverse public contributors
  • ensure community organisations receive appropriate and timely recognition and remuneration

4. Require feedback

In response to consistent demands from patients and the public, require those who commission, undertake and support research to provide feedback to the public and communities on their contributions.


  • clarify and strengthen NIHR's expectation that members of the public shaping research receive accessible and inclusive feedback on the research progress and outcomes, and on the impact their contributions made
  • clarify and strengthen NIHR's expectation that research teams must feed back study and trial results to participants in accessible and inclusive ways
  • improve reporting of public partnerships in NIHR-funded activities and research to capture and share best practice and identify what does and does not work

5. Strengthen capacity and capability

Improve access to evidence, materials, training and peer support so that research teams can conduct effective and meaningful public partnerships.


  • work with partners (in health and care research, delivery, and the voluntary and community sector) to provide resources and support for public contributors and the public partnerships workforce to strengthen shared learning and peer support
  • invest in and develop the ‘Learning for Involvement’ website as the primary destination for resources, good practice and fora to support public partnerships learning and development
  • clarify and strengthen NIHR’s expectation that people who commission, undertake and support NIHR-funded research will complete induction and training in involving and engaging the public and communities
  • provide guidance and training on public partnerships for early career researchers

For a summary of NIHR work to improve how we work with patients, carers and the public between 2020 and 2024, please visit our page on Improving how we work with patients, carers and the public 2020-2024.