Information for Patients and Public

Why do we need research?

We need research to provide evidence that something works. It is equally important to show that something is not effective or does not work in the way we thought it should.

Health and social care research can help us to:

  • Identify people at risk of getting ill and help to prevent illness.
  • Provide the best advice and treatments for people.
  • Share knowledge and understanding about different conditions.
  • Find out what people think about services.
  • Assess how effective services are.
  • Improve the environment, health and wellbeing of a local population

Why does research need members of the public to get actively involved?

The contributions and involvement of members of the public in the process of research development and planning is extremely valuable as it can provide alternative views from those of health care professionals and the research team.

Members of the public who are patients or who are carers are the experts in the use of NHS health treatments and services and their views and opinions may help to inform and shape current and future treatments and services.

Furthermore, research funders such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) now require public involvement as a condition of funding, and as the public are directly or indirectly affected by research; they should have the opportunity to contribute to it.

What does it mean to be a public involvement representative?

Members of the public can have a variety of important roles throughout the research process (see the research cycle in the RDS handbook).

Here are just a few examples of ways in which the public can contribute to improving health and social care research:

  • help select research that is important and relevant
  • to ensure research is asking the right questions
  • help researchers design their projects
  • help develop understandable information sheets for people taking part in research
  • to help develop interview and focus group questions
  • join a research management or advisory group
  • train to carry out some of the research
  • help interpret the results of the research
  • help make sure the research is reported in understandable ways

INVOLVE was established in 1996 and is part of and funded by the National Institute for Health Research to support active public involvement in NHS health and social care research. To find out more about being a public involvement representative see the INVOLVE website and read case studies.

How can I get involved?

The Research Design Service (RDS) works with researchers and clinicians who are applying for funding for health and social care research. If you would like to hear about opportunities to become involved in research please fill in your details on our sign up form here, or contact our patient and public involvement officers:

Megan Barlow-Pay (based in Southampton and Portsmouth)

Paul Hewitson (based in Oxford)