Including patient and public involvement (PPI) in health research is thought to improve research but it is hard to be clear exactly how it helps. This is because PPI takes many forms, is sometimes only token and is not always reported clearly. This makes it difficult to combine the evidence so that clear conclusions can be reached about the ingredients of successful PPI and what PPI achieves. Previous research that has tried to combine the evidence has led to several guidelines for researchers to use in setting up and reporting PPI.This paper was written jointly by researchers and PPI contributors as a reflection on our experiences. The aim was to add to the evidence, by giving detail about the use of PPI in a large randomised controlled trial and the effect it had. We were guided by published PPI reporting guidelines. The effects on the trial are shown in a table of changes made because of suggestions from the PPI group. A survey was used to ask PPI contributors and researchers about their experience and effects they had noticed. Three themes were noted: impact on the trial, the effect of involvement on individual researchers and group members, and group environment. The PPI work affected the trial in many ways, including changes to documents used in the trial and advice on qualitative data collection methods and analysis. Individuals reported positive effects, including enjoying being in the group, gaining confidence, and learning how to share views.
Patient and public involvement (PPI) is believed to enhance health care delivery research, and is widely required in research proposals. Detailed, standardised reporting of PPI is needed so that strategies to implement more than token PPI that achieves impact can be identified, properly evaluated and reproduced. Impact includes effects on the research, PPI contributors and researchers. Using contributor and researcher perspectives and drawing on published guidelines for reporting PPI, we aimed to reflect on our experience and contribute evidence relevant to two important questions: 'What difference does PPI make?' and 'What's the best way to do it?'
Fourteen people living with multiple long-term conditions (multimorbidity) were PPI contributors to a randomised controlled trial to improve care for people with multimorbidity. Meetings took place approximately four times a year throughout the trial, beginning at grant application stage. Meeting notes were recorded and a log of PPI involvement was kept. At the end of the trial, seven PPI contributors and four researchers completed free-text questionnaires about their experience of PPI involvement and their perception of PPI impact. The responses were analysed thematically by two PPI contributors and one researcher. The PPI group proposed writing this report, which was co-authored by three PPI contributors and two researchers.
Meeting attendance averaged nine PPI contributors and three to four researchers. The involvement log and meeting notes recorded a wide range of activities and impact including changes to participant documentation, advice on qualitative data collection, contribution to data analysis and dissemination advice. Three themes were identified from the questionnaires: impact on the study, including keeping the research grounded in patient experience; impact on individuals, including learning from group diversity and feeling valued; and an environment that facilitated participation. The size of the group influenced impact. Researchers and PPI contributors described a rewarding interaction that benefitted them and the research.
PPI was wide-ranging and had impact on the trial, contributors and researchers. The group environment facilitated involvement. Feedback and group interactions benefitted individuals. The insights gained from this study will postitively influence the researchers' and contributors' future involvement with PPI.