Preparing to set sail on a voyage of public involvement discovery


Bob McAlister, Working Group Public Member

Date: 21 March 2018

Well here we are in March 2018 as we launch new national public involvement standards. If the standards were a new boat we would now be at the top of a slipway with a bottle of Champagne about to swing towards us. Alas, no such drama for the Good Ship Standards but a period of excitement nevertheless.

Certainly for all the dedicated working group members from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland there is a frisson about the moment. Hard work becoming product at last - if at least to the point where the draft becomes the pilot material, to be worked with in earnest at our official test bed sites and beyond in a freestyle way.

This is an appropriate moment to spread the praise around - to you in fact - these standards have been heavily consulted on and have changed appropriately in response to feedback. Going forward we expect the same level of interest to be generated via actual user updates.

Challenge accepted

At the start of our voyage it was recommended that the NIHR should commission the development of a set of values, principles and standards for public involvement. These must be co-produced with the public and other partners. They should be framed in such a way, and with a clear set of self-assessment criteria, so that organisations across the NIHR see their adoption as integral to their continuous improvement in public involvement.

So should we now consider this done? I would say more or less but as the finalised material is circulated it is envisaged that the involved public and researchers will gradually further populate the document with their own examples of what works for them in terms of achieving the standards. Whilst the actual standards and indicators are prescriptive, the underpinning examples are more flexible and offer scope for ‘bespoking’.

Calmer seas on the horizon?

Personally, I think that the new standards will not be an obstacle for most of you who are already committed to public involvement in health and social care research as you will just have a more detailed reckoner for that which you are already doing. Conversely, if you are new to public involvement it will give you information on what you should be both expecting and contributing.

Importantly the indicator inputs are for the research commissioners, the research teams and the public members - everyone being expected to know and play their part in 'team research.' As one of the working group public members I can confirm that I was there throughout, I was definitely heard and some of the best bits are naturally due to my own contributions.

So please take note of the launch, read the material and consider how it may be used at a public involvement port close to you. Beyond that check out how the test beds get along with these new standards.

For more information visit the standards website.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.
  • Summary:
    Bob McAlister, public member in the national partnership developing UK-wide standards for public involvement in research, celebrates the journey he's been part of and his hopes for the next steps.
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    Bob McAlister, Working Group Public Member

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