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© University of Oxford

PPI Coordinators Lynne Maddocks (NIHR CLAHRC Oxford and Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) and Polly Kerr (NIHR Oxford BRC) discuss their initiative to provide training for their public contributors in some of the essentials of medical research, and why this is important.

Both the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and National Institute for Health Research really value the contribution of their public volunteers in Oxford, and so we wanted to give them something in return for all their help with our studies.  So last autumn we organised a series of six workshops to talk about some of the basics behind medical research, so that they could feel a little more knowledgeable when they attend our meetings.  We also gave them a nice lunch and a chance to meet with other volunteers, so that they would feel less isolated in this role.

It was also our aim to help improve volunteer’s ability to make a useful contribution in their PPI role, as they would have more understanding of the terminology and concepts that lie behind research.  This would help them to be more confident, but also to be able to judge better when a naïve question is appropriate – after all they are there to give an outside opinion!

Our attendees came from far and wide, travelling in from London, Birmingham, Leamington Spa and Cheltenham - a sign of how valuable people thought these workshops could be. Overall we had 40 people  signing up for 77 sessions between them, and one person came to all six!  The evaluation of the series was overwhelmingly positive with 98% of those who completed an evaluation stating they were glad they had attended.

We held the workshops in a variety of community settings including Exeter Hall in Kidlington, West Oxford Community Centre and the Asian Cultural Centre as well as here at Oxford University. 

We were delighted that our speakers freely gave their time and told us that they too had benefited from the experience. The way in which they worked to engage their audience was critical to the overall success of these events. 



What is the impact of being involved?
Research terminology and the research cycle
Management of clinical trials
Medical statistics
Evidence-based methodology

Jo Crocker
Noemi Roy
Mark Sheehan
Damian Haywood
Jackie Birks
Marcy MacBain

Dr Haywood outlined the types of trials; pilot and feasibility studies, randomised controlled trials, systematic reviews,  meta analyses, cohort studies and qualitative research, so that the delegates had a clearer understanding of what they may be asked to get involved with.

Dr Roy was able to talk about the research cycle from her very real experience as a clinician and a researcher.  Patients and clinicians had identified the problem that 1/10 of children with sickle cell anaemia suffer from cells. Their idea that they wanted to test was whether regular blood transfusions would reduce the number of strokes?  She was also able to demonstrate how in this real example from her own practice, PPI had influenced the identification of the problem and all the way through the research cycle to the change in clinical practice. 

Many of the speakers were able to use entertaining resources to engage their audience, such as this gem (below) from the Cornwall General Hospital, 1897.

“6. Patients must be quiet and exemplary in their behaviour and conform strictly to the rules and regulations of the Hospital, and carry out all orders and prescriptions of the various officers of the establishment.”“6. Patients must be quiet and exemplary in their behaviour and conform strictly to the rules and regulations of the Hospital, and carry out all orders and prescriptions of the various officers of the establishment.”

Feedback from the sessions included:

“An excellent, thought-provoking session, thank you.”

“Presenter was very knowledgeable and engaging, encouraging discussion and came across as really where and how PPI fits into trials.”

“You have put together an excellent programme which is, I believe, hugely successful.  Well done!”

Our public contributors have asked for more workshops like this, so we’re planning a second series next Autumn. 

Keep an eye on the CLAHRC Oxford website to be kept up to date on all events and opportunities from ourselves and our partners:

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.


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