Public voices in a research crowd
Julie Clayton, Victoria Wilson
1 May 2020
... more than just a gathering of professionals, we wanted SW SAPC 2020 to include members of the public whose voices are so important for giving researchers a reality check on what matters most to patients."
In Bristol we like to stir things up a bit, mix together people from different backgrounds and see what ideas emerge.
And so in this spirit, the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care hosted a conference* for over 100 people in early March – one of the last before the Covid-19 lockdown. It was about research in primary care, and many of the delegates drawn from universities across southwest England were general practitioners or social scientists keen to improve the experience for patients in all areas of primary care services.
But more than just a gathering of professionals, we wanted SW SAPC 2020 to include members of the public whose voices are so important for giving researchers a reality check on what matters most to patients. This had worked well for last year’s event in Southampton, and thanks to bursaries** we were able to invite seven of our regular public involvement contributors to the Bristol conference.
Among them were four women who spoke to the audience about their involvement in a research programme on domestic violence. One of the researchers involved, Helen McGeown, said “We all really enjoyed the day… Having the opportunity for clinicians and academics to hear directly from the women themselves made a huge impact I think. We got a lot of positive feedback from the room, who engaged readily and asked a lot of questions. The women really enjoyed presenting it too.”
The public contributors were free to mingle freely and chat with other delegates. Christina Stokes, who is a member of the CAPC Patient and Public Involvement Steering Group said, “Attending the SW SAPC 2020 conference really inspired me. I also made a range of contacts to enable me to further my involvement in research, which I think is important.”
Attending the SW SAPC 2020 conference really inspired me. I also made a range of contacts to enable me to further my involvement in research, which I think is important.”
- PPI contributor, Christina Stokes
With so many plenaries and parallel sessions, the event could be at times a little overwhelming, even for the most seasoned attendees. Jean Denham, a public contributor to a range of projects, said “South West SAPC 2020 was a completely new experience for me. So much was packed into the two days.” She navigated her way through, however, by focusing on the sessions most relevant to her, in particular, Access and Equity, Urgent and Out of Hours Care, and IT and Communications. She found the presentations on digital communications particularly encouraging: “We need to accelerate the pace of using digital means to communicate with our doctors, but also recognise that there is a proportion of the population that finds this difficult, if not impossible.” She added, “Overall, I certainly learned a lot and enjoyed meeting such a dedicated band of people.”
We have a lot to learn from our public contributors – it keeps us all on our toes to know what non-researchers think, so we look forward to seeing more attend in future.
*South West Society for Academic Primary Care 2020, 5-6 March 2020
**Thanks to bursaries from the Schools for Primary Care Research