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Everything you ever wanted to know about public involvement but were afraid to ask

In December, 30 people came together in Bristol to share experiences and come to a common understanding about how to implement good public involvement in healthcare settings.

In the room were people from voluntary sector organisations, clinical commissioning groups, mental health services, Universities as well as Trusts and provider services. All came to the workshop attracted by the title ‘Everything you wanted to know about PPI but were afraid to ask’, admitting they were often confused about what they were expected to do and whether they were doing the right thing. It is because of this that the West of England Academic Science Network has produced a Public Involvement Toolkit, which provided the basis of the workshop.

Legislation and current policy in health and social care is increasingly driving forward the involvement of the public (service users, their families, carers and citizens), trying to shift current culture so that this becomes the ‘way we do things’. Co-production as a method of involvement is also talked about more. Many clinicians are unprepared for this and whilst there are several guides and toolkits available, they are each written with a specific target audience in mind, such as commissioners or researchers. There is little available for busy clinicians and other healthcare professionals who need something they can use in their daily practice.

The interpretation of involvement and co-production can vary between the different disciplines of health research, quality improvement, service provision and commissioning. This can be confusing for staff on the ground, who may worry whether they are doing the ‘right’ thing. Our toolkit aims to reassure and encourage the practical application of involvement and co-production.

Toolkits by their very nature are intended to be of immediate practical use. As policy changes, they become out of date. However the principles of involvement, such as inclusivity and transparency are fundamental to good public involvement.

Designed to be quick reference tool on ‘how to do it’, it has links taking you to more detailed text explaining the theoretical framework in more depth or offering practical suggestions. It draws on both research and quality improvement traditions. Attention is drawn to where there are differences. Where a topic has been addressed usefully elsewhere, the reader is directed to that source.

At the end of the workshop, it was great to see the smiles on the faces of participants. “I feel more confident that I’m on the right track” said one on her way out. “It was reassuring to know that I am not alone and that other people face similar issues” said another.

If you’re also one of those in that ‘afraid to ask’ camp, there’s no need to be afraid any longer. You’ll find our PPI toolkit online here.

Posted on January 4, 2017

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