The end of the year is usually a time to reflect upon the year and finish off some last bits and pieces. But not for me, as by early-December, when I officially started my role, I was looking forward to a new chapter and the contributions I was going to make as the Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Officer at the School for Primary Care Research. By the time I started, these had already been influenced by trips made and people I had met at events around the country.
My first partner visit was to Keele University to attend their annual Research User Group (RUG) meeting in early November. The RUG consists of over 65 patient/public members with lived experiences of various conditions who are involved in primary care and health sciences research. The Pro-Vice Chancellor David Amigoni opened the day, representing the senior support received by RUG. The second keynote speaker was a Dutch patient advocate, Maarten de Wit, who shared his experiences of being involved in various research projects – this was received with enthusiasm and recognition from the attendees. There were personal stories, told by RUG members, and presentations from partnering organisations during the afternoon. The day was filled with laughter, a feeling of familiarity and great appreciation for all the work the RUG members do. This was a marvellous way to kick off my new position with some reinforcement of how involvement - done well - can benefit all stakeholders.
My second outing was to the SPCR annual showcase event in November. There were various talks by researchers funded by the School, lots of people to meet and 55 posters to have a look at during the breaks. It was great to familiarise myself with the breadth of research funded by the School; from antibiotic prescription, postnatal depression and weight management advice, to the influence of primary care research on policy. The research all had great social relevance and many projects showed patient involvement during various stages of the study.
The last meeting of 2018 was at the University of Manchester to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Primary Care Research in Manchester Engagement Resource (PRIMER) the 18th of December. PRIMER is the Centre for Primary Care’s patient and public involvement group, set up with funding from the School ten years ago. The event touched upon the past, present and future of patient and public involvement and engagement. The founder of PRIMER, Professor Helen Lester, was commemorated and previous chairs of PRIMER were thanked for their efforts. Current members shared stories and anecdotes from their various experiences of being part of PRIMER. Many researchers attended the celebration in honour of PRIMER and mentioned how the group’s involvement in their research made a difference. Moreover, Simon Denegri, from the National Institute for Health Research, provided his insights into the field of involvement and shared his vision on how the field might develop further in the future. PRIMER’s commitment to integrating patient involvement in primary care research was celebrated, and the group were encouraged to continue to fly the involvement flag for the next 10 years and beyond. In addition, as necessary for any good celebration, there was plenty of cake!
I look forward to getting to grips with this role in the new year and making my contribution to the great work of the School by working together with all partners in delivering the School’s involvement and engagement strategy. Having previously worked on stakeholder involvement at the European Medicines Agency, patient and public involvement at Alzheimer’s Society and most recently on public engagement at the Babraham Institute, I am excited to bring my breadth of experience together in this role. I believe that including the lived experience of patients in research and engaging with the public to improve awareness of research outcomes will benefit all stakeholders and can
make positive changes to society.