‘How many patients does it take to change a lightbulb?’ Time to get serious about learning and development in public involvement

Question: How many patients does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: No one knows, they are so rarely asked.

The irritating thing is that even when patients are asked to change a lightbulb, they are not given the help and support to do it effectively.

It’s a bit like asking someone to change one of a thousand lightbulbs in a chandelier hanging from a high ceiling in a grand mansion. No one tells you which lightbulb we are changing. Even worse, there’s not a set of ladders or abseiling rope in sight to help you get up there. Quite often you also find the thing has been booby trapped so the whole fitting smashes to the floor.

We need to get serious about the learning and development agenda in public involvement. It’s the proverbial step ladder to enabling and empowering patients so that they feel confident in their abilities and its potential contribution.

Likewise we need to get serious about the support we give to researchers. So that public involvement doesn’t feel like a distraction but an important step in ensuring their research is scientifically valid.

Now, the way this debate normally goes, everyone bangs on about being learner-centred and then in the next breath they plug their own training course. And there are some seriously bad courses – well intentioned but truly terrible – being provided.

Yes, we have to be learner-centred but in NIHR at least we also have to take a system-wide approach to providing learning and development and ensuring its quality. As you would in the best run companies and organisations.

Yesterday INVOLVE published the report from its working group looking at learning and development issues. We have made recommendations to the NIHR on overall strategy, what needs to happen in organisations and, lastly, how researchers and research managers should be tackling this. We also suggest some universal principles for learning and development.

If I had my way we’d have an INVOLVE accredited induction and training course provided as standard across the NIHR. But people tell me that’s not possible. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m just Jeremy Corbyn in disguise.

But think on this. The Americans are coming!

Yes, a few weeks ago an American outfit contacted me to plug and sell their shiny new course in ‘public engagement.’ I am sure it’s fine. But afterwards I thought, why aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t we exporting our knowledge in this way? We have so much to offer if we can only get our stuff together.

You can find the report here: http://www.invo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/FINAL-NIHR-LD-report-July-2015.pdf. And this is the summary of recommendations:

Across the NIHR it is recommended that:

 All learning and development for public involvement in research:
o provides ongoing support in three key areas – administrative, research and

personal support

o is accessible to all

o is appropriate and relevant to the task

o acknowledges individual readiness to learn and builds on existing knowledge and abilities. (Section 2.2).

At NIHR-wide strategic level it is recommended that:

  •  The NIHR supports regional and sector-wide collaborations for the delivery of learning and development opportunities. (Section 2.4).
  •  The NIHR funds a national lead to provide a national and strategic role for learning and development (this could be based within INVOLVE). (Section 2.4).
  •  The NIHR allocates funds for research to evaluate the nature and impact of learning and development to support public involvement. (Section 2.5).At organisational level it is recommended that:
  •  All NIHR organisations allocate resources and provide staff with induction training on public involvement in research. (Section 2.2).
  •  Learning and development for public involvement is resourced, embedded and promoted as part of organisational development within all NIHR funded organisations. (Section 2.3).
  •  There is clear senior leadership responsibility and accountability within organisations for the implementation and review of learning and development for public involvement in research. (Section 2.3).
  •  NIHR research commissioners demonstrate their commitment to public involvement in research by stating what they will provide to support learning and development. (Section 2.5).At researcher and research manager level it is recommended that:
    •  Researchers and research managers work with public members to develop learning and development plans for public involvement to support themselves and those they involve. (Section 2.2).
    •  The learning and development needs for all public involvement roles are identified and reviewed. (Section 2.3).
    •  Members of the public are given clear information, advice and support to enable them to carry out their roles effectively. (Section 2.3).
    •  Members of the public are encouraged, supported and enabled to take responsibility for their own learning and development needs. (Section 2.3).
    •  Researchers report on learning and development for public involvement as part of their reporting to research commissioners on public involvement. (Section 2.5).

Simon Denegri Sent from my Work iPhone
You can also find me at:
Twitter: @SDenegri
Blog: https://simondenegri.com/

2 thoughts on “‘How many patients does it take to change a lightbulb?’ Time to get serious about learning and development in public involvement

  1. Good blog Simon. NCT runs VOICES workshops to support multi disciplinary working in Maternity Services Liaison Committees, and Gillian Fletcher, lead facilitator and former NCT president, has adapted it to run with different patient groups and also research projects. So some UK-developed alternatives are out there!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s