UK drugs safety watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory Agency has put in place new measures that it hopes will forge a closer working relationship with patients and the public.

Although the regulator has worked with patients and the public for some time, it has always been on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis, and its new patient and public engagement (PPE) strategy is designed to formalise this working relationship “to ensure their input makes best use of resources and time”, as well as embed the related processes into MHRA culture.

Explaining the rationale behind the strategy, the Agency explained that, “if [it] is to be successful in its mission of safeguarding public health, it is essential it listens to the views and experiences of those who are most affected by the decisions the Agency makes, namely patients and the public”.

The move to draw up a two-year action plan to involve patients and the public more closely in its work was spurred by the outcome of a consultation exercise undertaken by the MHRA last year to gather opinion on its five-year strategy. “Probably the single clearest message from the whole consultation exercise was the broad support for greater engagement of the public in its work,” the Agency said.

Vision for PPE
The MHRA’s vision of PPE includes: identifying areas for stronger co-operative and mutually beneficial relationships with patients and the public; encouraging and promoting PPE in its activities where appropriate; and ensuring patients and the public play a role in decision-making where relevant.

To help embed a new culture of greater patient and public involvement in the MHRA’s operations, the Agency says it will initiate a co-ordinated programme of internal activities during the first year of the action plan, as well as develop a PPE guide for all staff in the following year.

Also under the action plan, the regulator aims to raise its profile and build relationships with external organisations, and develop the necessary supporting systems within the Agency to facilitate greater PPE, it said.

A budget of £44,000 has been agreed to help implement measures laid out in the first year of the action plan, and funding for the second year will be assessed nearer the time.