The extent, quality and impact of patient and public involvement in primary care research: a mixed methods study

Steven Blackburn, Sarah McLachlan, Sue Jowett, Philip Kinghorn, Paramjit Gill, A Higginbottom, Carol Rhodes, Fiona Stevenson, Clare Jinks

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Background: To improve the lives of patients in primary care requires the involvement of service users in primary care research. We aimed to explore the extent, quality and impact of patient and public involvement (PPI) in primary care research.

Methods: We extracted information about PPI from grant applications, reports and an electronic survey of researchers of studies funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR). We applied recognised quality indicators to assess the quality of PPI and assessed its impact on research.

Results: We examined 200 grant applications and reports of 181 projects. PPI was evident in the development of 47 (24%) grant applications. 113 (57%) grant applications included plans for PPI during the study, mostly in study design, oversight, and dissemination. PPI during projects was reported for 83 (46%) projects, including designing study materials and managing the research. We identified inconsistencies between planned and reported PPI. PPI varied by study design, health condition and study population.

Of 46 (24%) of 191 questionnaires completed, 15 reported PPI activity. Several projects showed best practice according to guidelines, in terms of having a PPI budget, supporting PPI contributors, and PPI informing recruitment issues. However few projects offered PPI contributors training, used PPI to develop information for participants about study progress, and had PPI in advising on dissemination.

Beneficial impacts of PPI in designing studies and writing participant information was frequently reported. Less impact was reported on developing funding applications, managing or carrying out the research. The main cost of PPI for researchers was their time. Many researchers found it difficult to provide information about PPI activities.

Our findings informed:
a new Cost and Consequences Framework for PPI in primary care research highlighting financial and non-financial costs, plus the benefits and harms of PPI

Fifteen co-produced recommendations to improve PPI in research and within the SPCR.

Conclusions: The extent, quality and impact of PPI in primary care research is inconsistent across research design and topics. Pockets of good practice were identified making a positive impact on research. The new Cost and Consequences Framework may help others assess the impact of PPI.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalResearch Involvement & Engagement
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2018


  • Patient and public involvement
  • Quality
  • Impact
  • Mixed methods, primary care research
  • Cost and consequences framework


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