Integrated training for members of a research panel

At the Musculoskeletal Research Unit at the University of Bristol, there is a dedicated group of members of the public who meet on a regular basis with researchers to discuss research ideas and projects. This group is called PEP-R: the Patient Experience Partnership in Research. Group members bring with them knowledge and experience of living with musculoskeletal conditions. At group meetings, researchers and group members discuss ideas and projects. The sessions are funded by North Bristol NHS Trust and through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Studies into the Orthopaedic Experience (RESTORE) programme.

What is the aim of the training?

The aim of the training is to provide the chance for members to find out about research methods and processes so that they can best contribute to the research. The aim of PEP-R is to enable people with musculoskeletal conditions to contribute to research projects at the Unit, to contribute their ideas for research and to work alongside researchers to identify research priorities.

What does the training involve?

The ethos behind the training and development is to place information about research methods and process within the context of real examples of the Unit’s ongoing and planned research. In this way training and development are integral to the ongoing work of PEP-R.Training and development for group members takes place in three ways:

  1. It is built into sessions when discussing projects
  2. It is included in some dedicated timeslots within the sessions
  3. It takes place in specialised meetings for group members interested in particular topics.

Training and development topics are identified by research staff and by group members in response to questionnaires asking them to prioritise areas that they would like to learn more about. PEP-R members are provided with additional materials including information about research design, examples of blank funding application forms and INVOLVE’s jargon buster.

In dedicated information sessions held separately, PEP-R members have visited the Unit during working hours. These visits have provided the chance for them to find out about and discuss sensory testing equipment and laboratory research. These information sessions took place with the Unit’s research staff who are using such equipment and working in the laboratories on an ongoing basis.

What are the outcomes of the training?

To date the PEP-R group have found out about a range of topics within the regular meetings when discussing projects. For instance, PEP-R have been able to input into several proposed and ongoing randomised controlled trials. To make this possible, randomisation and the reason for trials were discussed with the group. Dedicated slots within the sessions have enabled PEP-R to discuss topics such as qualitative research methods with researchers. Larger scale studies have also been discussed, again within the context of examples of the Unit’s research.

Who organised the sessions?

The content of PEP-R sessions is worked out by a planning group. This is made up of research staff, a Communication and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Manager and a member of PEP-R.

How do you support group members?

Training and development is integral to the whole approach of PEP-R and Amanda Burston, the PPI Coordinator, is the key contact person for group members. Members regularly receive feedback on the projects they have discussed so that they can see how their input has influenced research at the Unit.

Have you evaluated the training?

The planning group is currently conducting an evaluation of PEP-R as a whole. Group members and researchers are being asked to describe how PEP-R has impacted on them and whether it has met their expectations.

When is the training most useful? Who is it most useful for?

This approach is a valuable way of providing training in an integrated way into meetings of a panel of service users to enable them to provide input on research projects.

Learning point:

  • Don’t underestimate the value of integrating training into existing activities of service user groups

Contact for more information:

Contact: Rachael Gooberman-Hill or Amanda Burston
Tel: 0117 323 2112

May 2012