Last year when the draft National Standards for PPI were published by NIHR I was openly critical of the draft. I felt then it was pushing hard for mediocrity, it lacked ambition, and that the minimum required would be all that those involved would feel challenged to achieve.
Now that the final version is out (published on 20th March) I have to say how pleased I am with what has evolved. The standards include some real challenges and in Standard 6 in particular I should be surprised if many places in their first assessment come up to scratch.
These are the headline standards.
Standard 1: INCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITIES
We offer public involvement opportunities that are accessible and that reach people and groups according to research needs.
Standard 2: WORKING TOGETHER
We work together in a way that values all contributions, and that builds and sustains mutually respectful and productive relationships.
Standard 3: SUPPORT & LEARNING
We offer and promote support and learning that builds confidence and skills for public involvement in research.
Standard 4: COMMUNICATIONS
We use plain language for timely, two way and targeted communications, as part of involvement plans and activities.
Standard 5: IMPACT
To drive improvement, we capture and share the difference that public involvement makes to research.
Standard 6: GOVERNANCE
We involve the public in our governance and leadership so that our decisions promote and protect the public interest.
The process has remained similar to that in the original draft. Each Statement is supported by a number of Indicators and the manual gives examples as what would qualify. The nature of the structure indicates that discussion and debate amongst all involved, and all stakeholders within an institution, should be part of the process, with consensus necessary. This in itself will be challenging to some institutions which tinker around with largely tokenistic PPI. It will hopefully open up the opportunities to drive meaningful patient and public involvement deeper into the organization.
Well done NIHR and INVOLVE. Lets get people using them and lets see how these standards re-energise the acceptance of PPI into the NHS.