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Supporting Patient and Public Involvement in Professional Services

Dr Lisa Austin support researchers with patient and public involvement through the Participate Network.

Three women looking at a phone app and smiling
People with caring responsibilities testing a phone app


Dr Lisa Austin works across the Department for Health, the NHS, and the NIHR Research Design Service South West supporting researchers with patient and public involvement (PPI), and connecting them with public participants.

Engagement Type - Listening, Working Together

public group - patients, carers and service users

Engagement Method - Patient & Public Involvement Network

Themes - Patient & Public Involvement

Project Team

Dr Lisa Austin

Facts and Figures

The Participate Network has been running for over 10 years with over 100 patient, carer and service user members.


Through the NIHR Research Design Service, I support academics with their PPI right from the idea development stage all the way through to the end of their project.

I help with developing research proposals for submission to NIHR funding programmes and other open, national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

Through my Participate Network, I also connect academics with public participants and can support them in running panel events, and in recruiting research partners.

Support to meet funder requirements

Funding panels for health and social care research want to see how applicants have involved members of the public in developing their proposals and how they intend to involve them in their research studies.

Some funders have lay-people reviewing grant applications, and they want to see meaningful PPI that has been well thought-through.

It’s my job to support academics with this as early in the process as possible. I can arrange for applications to be reviewed by members of the Participate Network, and can access funding to help pay public participants who are involved in research projects at the application stage.

I can help with writing the PPI section of grant applications, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) statements.

Engagement Approach

Two women looking at a phone on a table
Testing sessions with users from the Participate Network

I set up the Participate Network over ten years ago, to make it easier for researchers to find patient and public participants. The Network provides access to over one-hundred public members who are all patients, carers, or service users, and are interested in being involved with health research.

We have three public panels: the Pain Panel, the Carers Panel, and the Healthy Living Panel. Researchers can access these panels to gain feedback on an idea, or to influence the planning and design of research projects.

I can also connect academics with public participants who are interested in being research partners on longer term projects.


The PPI support that I’m able to offer through the Research Design Service enables academics to make their research more relevant and meaningful, and to make better use of public funds.

For example, a recent project proposal that our Pain Panel reviewed was for an investigation into the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical methods of pain relief, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and would require participants to stop their pain relief medication for the purposes of the study. The panel advised that many patients wouldn’t be able to cope with that, or tolerate even the thought of it, and that recruiting participants for the study would be very difficult because of that. The proposal was changed as a result of the feedback, so that participants could keep taking their medication, and the CBT sessions would be trialled alongside their existing medication.