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Public Committee Member Roles - Information Pack for Members of the Public


Published: 14 January 2021

Version: 1.2

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The NIHR is the nation’s largest funder of health and social care research focused on the needs of patients and the public. Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, we invest over £1 billion a year in research that provides people working on the NHS, public health and social care front lines with the evidence they need to better help and support patients, service users and the public. We aim to ensure that the knowledge, experiences and interests of patients, service users, carers and the public inform and contribute to its work.

We work in partnership with the NHS, universities, local government, other research funders, and pharmaceutical companies to deliver and enable world-class research that improves health and wellbeing for all. 

Find out more about how our work is influencing care, and making a positive difference to people, and the economy.  

What does a NIHR committee do?

NIHR committees have an important part to play to help us deliver our mission to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research.

The committees typically have 20 members and include public members, senior academics and NHS clinicians and practitioners, who together assess research proposals which are applying for funding from the Government and research briefs that describe a potential area of research. These research proposals and briefs cover a wide range of health and social care issues and challenges with the aim to benefit patients and improve services.

Public committee members bring a different but equally important viewpoint to the NIHR committees. They bring the viewpoint of those who research aims to help most (patients, service users, carers, anyone affected by the research topics).

We are inviting patients, carers, services users and members of the public interested in health and social care who have the skills, knowledge, experience, time and commitment to undertake this role, to join a number of NIHR committees.

In our effort to ensure that NIHR is inclusive and reflects a range of experiences and backgrounds, we would like to encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you are interested, please read on. 

Who can apply?

We are looking for people who have a broad range of interests, current knowledge around health and social care and research, and those who are able to build on their own experience as patients, service users and/or carers.

NIHR is committed to a supportive, inclusive, caring, and positive community. We warmly welcome those of different cultures, ages, ethnicities, and beliefs. Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our values and vital to our success. We are currently looking to diversify and enrich our committees. We particularly welcome applications from disabled candidates and candidates from an ethnic minority background and younger people as they are currently under-represented.

We also welcome applications from service-user and/or survivor researchers. Where applicants have, or have had, a professional role in health or social care services or research, we need to strike a balance between including their lived experience and avoiding the over-dominance of professional voices, so will be informed by this NIHR guidance.

In order to provide opportunities for more people to get involved in the work of the NIHR, public members of committees can only serve on one committee at a time and they cannot apply for the same committee that they have previously served on.

If you are unsure whether or not you are eligible to apply, please contact the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) team, email:

What experience and skills do you need?

If you apply to become a public committee member, your application will be assessed against the preferred criteria listed below through the application and interview process:

Experience and Knowledge

  • Experience as an active member of a committee or working group (for example, Research Ethics Committee, Healthwatch committee, housing association committee or a committee member for a local charity or club).
  • Experience of assessing complex written documents. 
  • Knowledge and experience of patient and public involvement in health and social care services and/or research.
  • Experience of working on equality and diversity initiatives in relation to health or social care research.
  • Experience of participating in or supporting research focused on tackling inequalities.

Skills and ability 

  • Ability to reflect a broader range of patient, service user, carer and public perspectives in addition to own personal experience.
  • Ability to highlight gaps in health or social care research and suggest improvements for change. 
  • Ability to take part in constructive debate and present views succinctly. 

What does the role involve?

  • Prepare for committee meetings by reading and assessing meeting papers (electronic documents) that are routinely lengthy and complex.
  • Attending committee meetings (see time commitment below for more information) and taking part in discussions to make recommendations on which research should be funded and/or prioritised
  • Providing feedback on documents between meetings

A detailed role description will be provided upon appointment. 

Format of Meetings:

During Covid-19 restrictions all committee meetings have been held online. Once restrictions are lifted we intend to hold two out of three committees virtually and the third face to face (or a similar proportion if meetings are a different frequency). This will be reviewed at some time in the future and the balance of virtual and face to face meetings could change. We understand the importance of relationship building and networking at committees and will ensure that annual face to face meetings provide plenty of opportunity for this. It is not practical to hold meetings with a mixture of online and face to face attendance and therefore, other than in very exceptional circumstances, members will be required to attend the face to face meeting and plenty of notice for this will be given.

How much time is involved?

It is important that public members are available for the committee meetings.

  • Meetings can take place up to four times per year. All committee members will be given an annual schedule of the meetings and pre-meeting work in good time. 
  • Meetings usually last for one to two full day(s) and are held on weekdays. 
  • The workload varies between committees. All committees require a number of hours of preparation to review paperwork (electronic documents) in the lead up to each meeting. For new members, the preparation time for their first meeting may take a little longer. 
  • The tenure is initially for two years, with a possibility of extending for a further two years. 

What’s in it for you?

  • Public members will be helping to improve national and local health and social care services for patients, people who use services, carers or the public. 
  • This experience may give you the opportunity to develop skills such as public speaking, collaborative skills and critical thinking, whilst also learning more about health and social care and research methods. Ultimately building a portfolio for career development.
  • As a committee member, you are able to become an expert by experience as an equal contributor to the committee alongside healthcare and other professionals. It shows you can work in a team, networking with public contributors and the wider research community.

What do we give in return?

Attendance fee and expenses

We offer public members an attendance fee for their involvement in the committee. The amount will depend on the nature and volume of work involved. The fee will always be clarified ahead of the meeting and will include the preparation work.

Public members can also claim reasonable expenses in connection with their attendance at committee meetings, for example, travel, food and drink, accommodation, childcare, carer costs, personal assistant costs, postage and printing costs. Upon request, staff will book travel directly so that public committee members do not need to meet these costs in advance.

Face to face committee meetings always include refreshments throughout the day and lunch.

Please note, some meetings may take place virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which case some of the above listed expenses will not be relevant (such as travel, food and drink, accommodation). However, you can still claim costs that relate to your ability to attend the meeting (for example, childcare, carer costs, printing costs).

Learning, development and support

The welfare of our new public members is paramount and we look to support our members in any way we can throughout their tenure.

We invite all newly appointed public committee members to attend their first meeting as an observer rather than as an active member. This gives new members an opportunity to meet other committee members and observe the group at work before actively contributing to it.

In addition, we offer a ‘buddy’ to all new members. A ‘buddy’ is another professional or public committee member who has volunteered to take on this role. They are available to provide some additional, informal support (usually by phone or email) for new members for their first few meetings.

We understand the importance of the development of our members and look to provide opportunity to learn throughout tenures. A detailed new public member induction description will be provided upon appointment.

We also provide members with a number of guidance documents they may find useful for their work and access to online resources, such as:


We will do everything we can to support the individual needs of public committee members. For example, by ensuring that meeting venues are accessible for people with limited mobility. Some level of IT knowledge is expected of members in order to access meeting papers and participate in virtual meetings. We provide support to access the system and hard copies of papers can also be provided on request. 

We strive to host inclusive and accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. We will do everything we can to meet individual committee member’s needs. To make a request or for inquiries about accessibility, please contact Caroline Hillier, email:

Which committees could you apply to join?

We are currently looking for new members of the public to join the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme.

For further information on the programmes, please click on the individual links above and/or contact us on

How to apply

Please download and complete an application form from our website.

Please let us know whether you require any reasonable adjustments to be made in order to assist you with completing your application.

The deadline for applications is 9am 20 August 2021

Please return the completed application form by email to
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we are remote working and cannot accept postal applications as our offices are closed. If this causes a problem, please contact us.

We will notify all applicants of the outcome of their application by email in the week commencing 6 September 2021.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview. Interviews will be conducted virtually or by telephone on the 13, 14, 15 September 2021.

We publish interview dates in advance and these cannot be changed. If you are not available on an interview date, please contact us before submitting an application so that we can advise you further.

How to contact us

If you would like more information or guidance on this opportunity please contact us by email: