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Renewing the NIHR’s commitment to public partnerships

Published: 26 March 2024

The NIHR has published its first Strategic Commitments for Public Partnerships to improve how we work with patients, service-users, carers and the public. This is a step change in our ambition to make public partnerships diverse, inclusive and impactful, which will be built into detailed action plans.

Between 2025 and 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

Professor Lucy Chappell, CEO of NIHR, commented: “Doing the best science and research is only possible when we work closely with patients and the public. We need to hear the full range of public voices and ensure they have real influence on the research and how it is put into practice. These new commitments will make a big difference to that.”

Una Rennard, an NIHR public contributor, commented: “I’m really pleased that NIHR continues to build on the improvements that have happened in the last decade. I have been encouraged by the NIHR’s collective desire to understand and focus on improving the current experiences of those involved in public partnerships activities. I look forward to seeing them put into practice across the NIHR and finding out what sort of impact they have on people’s experiences of being a part of research.”

Read more about the commitments and underlying priorities on the dedicated Commitments page.

Why are we making these commitments?

Patients, service users, carers and the public play a vital role in research, drawing on their lived experience of health and care issues. They help shape research, contribute to NIHR funding decisions and take part in studies and trials. We are proud of our long track record in this work - which we refer to as public partnerships - but need to stay up to date and keep advancing.

The Commitments build on approaches outlined in Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter and reflect insights from public and professional stakeholders, and evidence-based good practice. They represent priorities across five key areas where we know the NIHR should get better and go further. The Commitments align with NIHR Research Inclusion strategy and support the Government’s people-centred vision of enhancing UK clinical research delivery. They form a key part of the NIHR’s contribution to the cross-sector shared commitment to public involvement.

What next?

Starting later this year, we will publish a series of action plans, which will show how we intend to deliver against the Commitments. We will monitor and evaluate progress against these plans.

The NIHR is already doing work which contributes to the Commitments, for example on improvements to the payment of public contributors, sharing of good practice guidance and community engagement.

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