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Patient and public involvement (PPI) refers to research carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them.1 PPI can include patients, carers, service users and the public, referred to here as ‘lay advisors’ (can also be called PPI experts, public advisors, stakeholders, experts by experience). PPI entails contributing in varying degrees to the design, development, conduct, data analysis and dissemination of research.2 Involvement can be consultative (single episode), collaborative (ongoing) or user controlled (actively controlled, directed, and managed by service users).3
PPI is now commonly required in research funding proposals. There are national UK standards for conducting PPI,4 and considerable guidance on how to identify and engage with lay advisors (eg, tailoring PPI to the needs of the study and the willingness of representatives),5 and how to evaluate the impact of PPI.6 7 Most guidance addresses PPI in the context of intervention studies and/or long-term conditions (including long-term stigmatised conditions)8 where lay advisors are sought through regular clinic attendance, patient support groups or charities. In contrast, there is little guidance or precedence on conducting PPI for episodic infection involving singular attendance (eg, chlamydia), for studies which seek to describe population characteristics or risk factors, or for study populations defined by stigmatised behaviours.9 Much sexual health research fits within one of these scenarios, making PPI in this field challenging.9–11
The aim of this paper, therefore, is to share experiences of conducting PPI in sexual health research. Successes and failures from four studies are discussed (see table 1 for an overview of each study). Lessons learnt are presented in relation to three stages of PPI activities: (1) determining who to include as lay advisors; (2) identifying where to access lay advisors; and (3) engaging with those …
Handling editor Sarah K Edwards
Contributors NE conceived the idea for the paper. All authors (LMD, PB, SW, SC, JOC, JAC and NE) contributed to writing early drafts of the paper. Case study 1 was conducted by JOC. Case studies 2 and 4 were conducted by NE and case study 3 was conducted by LMD. LMD and NE prepared the final manuscript with contributions from all coauthors. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding This paper is an independent research by the National Institute for Health Research. The research is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at University College London, in partnership with Public Health England and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (grant number: HPRU-2012-10023). Case study 4 presents independent research commissioned by the NIHR, under the Research for Patient Benefit Programme (PB-PG-0407-13149).
Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or Public Health England.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.