Patient and Public Involvement module for researchers in MSc at King’s College, London University

This is an innovative development: a 12-week postgraduate module run as part of the Masters in Public Health (MPH) at King’s College London (KCL). Places on the course are also offered to students in the School of Medicine, health professionals, Research and Development managers and other researchers. The training is accredited as part of the MPH; it comprises 15 credits at Masters level; 40 Continuing Professional Development units with the assignment and 30 units without.

What is the aim of the training?

The module aims to provide postgraduate training in the theory and practice of involving patients and the public in health and social care research. Students will acquire the skills to be able to understand patient and public involvement (PPI) policy and practice in its historical, social and political context. They will also develop the practical skills required to design and implement patient and public involvement in research.

Who is the target audience?

The target audience is, firstly, students on the Masters in Public Health; they get first refusal for places (there are a maximum of 25 places). After this, it is opened up to everyone in the University. On the first occasion the module was run, four National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) / NHS professionals attended the course along with three Masters students. External students pay £600 for the course.

What does the training involve?

It is a 12-week course of three teaching hours per week, plus a minimum of three hours reading to prepare each week and three assessments. The topics covered include: the history of PPI; activism and public involvement, individual and collective action; practical – critique of papers; expert patient debate; benefits of PPI; key principles; practical issues (for example communications and skills); and impact of PPI. Students have the opportunity to create an individual PPI plan for a research topic of their choice. For example, one student talked to a group of young people about a research project, and another talked to a mother about maternity services.

What are the outcomes?

The first time it was run (September to December 2011), five students out of the seven passed, and one of the Masters students gained a distinction. (Two of the participants who were not doing the MSc did not complete the assignment due to work pressures). Feedback from students is positive, particularly from the Masters students. The practical part of the course is found to be particularly important in bringing home to the students the value of PPI in research.

Who developed the training? Were members of the public involved?

It was developed by Carol Porteous (PPI Lead for the Research Design Service (RDS), London) and Sophie Auckland (PPI Lead for the Biomedical Research Centre, Guy’s and St Thomas’s/King’s College London) with Dr Christopher McKevitt (Reader in Social Sciences and Health) as module coordinator and with support from Dr Annette Boaz, Lecturer in Translational Science. Having run training sessions for Research Design Services and for the Biomedical Research Centre of two to three hours, they recognised that there was a need for more of a grounding in the philosophy and origins of PPI in research for academic researchers.

Who delivers the training? Are members of the public involved?

The module is delivered by Carol Porteous and Sophie Auckland and the academic lead is Dr Christopher McKevitt. In addition, there are a number of external speakers for example Dr Diana Rose (Co-Director of the Service User Research Enterprise, Institute of Psychiatry and Jonathan Boote, University of Leeds/Yorkshire and Humber RDS). Service users are involved in delivering two of the sessions: communications and creating relationships with patients and members of the public, and writing for lay audiences.

Have you evaluated the training?

There has been no formal evaluation to date (April 2012), but in the next month or so, the students will be receiving their marks and will be asked to feedback their views of the course.

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

The coordinators see the module as being useful for anyone doing a research based Masters; it fits with the MPH but would be useful for students in other disciplines, as well as health professionals and research managers unfamiliar with or wanting a greater understanding of PPI in research.

Learning points for the benefit of others

  • The first run of the module involved a lot of work and was exhausting for the coordinators. Without a dedicated textbook to support such a course, it was necessary to pull the information together from various sources. There should not be as much work when they run it a second time.
  • There was a range of experiences and views across the group which was a challenge for the coordinators to balance out. Some students were not very knowledgeable about research so the coordinators needed to provide some basic tuition about the research cycle. For next time, they will develop the pre-course reading to reflect this.
  • Some students needed a lot of one-to-one support. It is important to reiterate that there are still different understandings of PPI and you need to allow time for this intensive support.

Contact for more information:

Carol Porteous, PPI Lead for Research Design Service London

Sophie Auckland, PPI Lead for Biomedical Research Centre

May 2012