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Written by Beth Bareham, Newcastle University

The School for Primary Care Research values its trainees and invests in their development as future Primary Care researchers. The School’s trainees meet each September at the trainee conference, where a range of training sessions are provided. The School identified a need for more focussed training, and set up Post Graduate Research training days. The School has PGR students acting as representatives for each of their member institutes. In the run up to February this year, these representatives worked as a team to organise their first event in Cambridge. This provided training for research relating to randomised controlled trials. All students from SPCR member institutes were invited to attend the training day, regardless of whether they were funded by SPCR. This event was a great success.

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Students’ confidence in PPI greatly increased from the beginning (blue) to the end of the training day (red)

On Wednesday 7th June, the second training day was hosted by the Newcastle University Institute of Health and Society and themed around developing skills in Patient and Public Involvement (PPI). I led the organisation of this event alongside the University engagement team. The SPCR, as one of the NIHR’s three research schools, places a high value on PPI in their funded research projects. PPI is essential to ensure that our projects reflect the interests and needs of the public. Patients and the public offer unique insights and can help to ensure that the design of our projects is well thought-through, and that the execution is smooth.Thirty-five students, alongside eight staff experienced in PPI, and eight members of our university PPI groups, gathered at the Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne. Our vision for the training day was to create a formative opportunity to develop understanding and confidence for PPI in our cohort of early career researchers. Particular emphasis was placed on encouraging creative thinking, and involvement of patients and the public throughout the research cycle.

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In an insightful and witty Keynote talk, Dave Green explains how PPI is comparable to a stick of rock.

Keynote talks, workshops, student presentations and a panel discussion filled most of the day. With little experience in event organisation, I found myself caught up in an organisation-frenzy during the first half of the event. However, by the second half I could see the attitudes and confidence of the students towards PPI in their projects was already being transformed. My impressions were confirmed by the students’ feedback. Almost all the participants reported that their plans for PPI in their project had changed as a result of the training day, and that their understanding and confidence of PPI had increased. One student commented ‘It was a delight to hear perspectives and experiences from both established experts in this field and also from students. Very informative and motivating learning experience. And very well organised.’

Somewhat unexpectedly, supporting staff and PPI representatives were keen to tell me that they also felt that they had learned a lot from the day, hearing each other’s and students’ perspectives and concerns surrounding PPI. One of the members of Newcastle University’s PPI group Voice North reported that the day ‘gave us [PPI group members] insight into the difficulties that students may face’ and ‘was interesting and thought provoking’. Dr Susan Hrisos, Senior Research Associate and PPI lead for the Newcastle SPCR group, commented ‘Lots of shared learning for everyone – students, research staff and PPI contributors all reflected new understanding about the complexity and pragmatics of involving people in research, and recognition for each other’s perspective and experience’. We hope that this will help develop support for PPI for future research within the university.

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Rashmi Bhardwaj-Gosling and Peter Michell, awarded best presentation at the Newcastle University / SPCR PPI PGR training day, with a fantastic example of PPI for dissemination.

Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the event, which we hope will help shape future PPI training opportunities provided within the School and further afield. Through developing this training opportunity from a student perspective, it was great to see that its’ vision and components were tailored and appropriately pitched to the needs of the student group.

Our competition for student presenters was judged by Dr Emma Palmer-Cooper, recently appointed PPI lead within the School.  Emma found it impossible to pick just one winner, because so much thought and effort had gone into the plans and presentations. Mr Peter Michell, presenting as PPI representative for Rashmi Bhardwaj-Gosling of Newcastle University, took the award for best presentation in a fantastic example of PPI for dissemination. Nadege Uwamahoro was presented an award for her thoughtful and thorough PPI plans within her project, which truly embodied the School’s philosophy of the importance of PPI, taking PPI overseas.

Special thanks to Dr Emma Palmer-Cooper, Dr Lynne Corner, Dr Susan Hrisos, Helen Atkinson, Alex Mitchell, Claire Bamford, Dr Jo Lally, Dr Steph Scott and Rose Watson, all of our PPI group members and students involved in making the day a huge success.

 

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