This paper aims to support the critical development of user involvement in systematic reviews by explaining some of the theoretical, ethical and practical issues entailed in ‘getting ready’ for user involvement.Background
Relatively few health or social care systematic reviews have actively involved service users. Evidence from other research contexts shows that user involvement can have benefits in terms of improved quality and outcomes, hence there is a need to test out different approaches in order to realize the benefits of user involvement and gain a greater understanding of any negative outcomes.Design
Setting up a service-user reference group for a review of user involvement in nursing, midwifery and health visiting research involved conceptualizing user involvement, developing a representation framework, identifying and targeting service users and creating a sense of mutuality and reciprocity.Setting and participants
Recruitment was undertaken across England by two researchers. Members from 24 national consumer organizations were selected to participate in the review.Main variables studied
Learning was gained about finding ways of navigating consumer networks and organizations, how best to communicate our goals and intentions and how to manage selection and ‘rejection’ in circumstances where we had stimulated enthusiasm.Results and conclusions
Involving service users helped us to access information, locate the findings in issues that are important to service users and to disseminate findings. User involvement is about relationships in social contexts: decisions made at the early conceptual level of research design affect service users and researchers in complex and personal ways.