The impact of consumer involvement in research: an evaluation of consumer involvement in the London Primary Care Studies Programme

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Abstract

Background

The value of consumer involvement in health services research is widely recognized. While there is a growing body of evidence about the principles of good consumer involvement, there is little research about the effect that involvement can have on the research. This evaluation assessed the level and impact of consumer involvement in the London Primary Care Studies Programme (LPCSP), all of whose individual projects had to demonstrate substantial involvement as a condition of funding.

Objective

To evaluate consumer involvement in the LPSCP and understand what impact consumers had on the research process and outcomes.

Methods

A multi-method case study approach was undertaken, using survey techniques, interviews, focus groups, observation and scrutiny of written documents. The overall data set comprised 61 questionnaires, 44 semi-structured interviews, 2 focus groups and 15 hours of observation of meetings. Eleven primary care-based research projects which together made up the LPCSP.

Results

An in-depth description of consumer involvement in the Programme was produced. Nine projects had consumers as co-applicants, four projects had been completed before the evaluation began and one was still ongoing at the time of the evaluation. Of the eight projects which have produced final reports, all met their aims and objectives. Consumers had had an additional impact in the research, in the initial design of the study, in recruitment of the research subjects, in developing data collection tools, in collecting the data, in analysis and disseminating the findings.

Conclusions

Consumer involvement in National Health Service research is a relatively recent policy development and while there is an increasing amount of literature about how and why consumers should be involved in research, there is less evidence about the impact of such involvement. This evaluation provides evidence about the impact that consumers have not only on the research process but also on the outcomes of the research.

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