Knowing that a health-research study had been reviewed by a Research Ethics Committee (REC) involving members of the public, or that patients had a role in ensuring the study information was easily digestible, would boost public confidence in the research endeavour, a UK survey has found.

The Ipsos MORI survey of 1,295 British adults was conducted for the Health Research Authority in an effort to quantify some of the findings from a series of HRA workshops held over the last few months on patient and public views of health research.

Patient and public involvement in research has long been considered an important element in ensuring more robust study designs, minimising dropout rates among participants, and delivering more meaningful patient outcomes, the HRA noted.

Health researchers “are often encouraged to involve patients and the public in the design of their studies, but some researchers may not have understood this”, it added.

More confident

In the Ipsos MORI survey, 77% of the adults taking part said if they were made aware that a Research Ethics Committee had reviewed a health-research study, it would increase their confidence in the study.

In an ethics committee with 18 members, typically two thirds are experts from the National Health Service and one third members of the public.

The survey also found that 44% of respondents felt involving patients in ensuring that information given to research participants was easily understandable and meaningful would boost their confidence in the study.

A further 49% “were not sure either way, with very few thinking it would reduce their confidence”, the HRA added.

These findings suggest that if health researchers communicated the fact that patients and the public had been involved in designing their research when approaching potential study participants, it might help to boost recruitment, the HRA believes.

Body of evidence

The survey “adds to the growing body of evidence showing public involvement adds value to research,” commented Simon Denegri, director of INVOLVE, the National Institute for Health Research's national advisory group on public involvement in NHS, public-health and social-care research.

“The essential message to funders is that if they make the effort to enlist the help of patients and the public, they will see returns in the quality of their research as well as in the effectiveness and efficiency of its delivery.”