Dr Paula Wray, senior public involvement manager at NIHR INVOLVE in the UK has spent nine years in public involvement in applied health research. She attends around 25 patient engagement meetings every year and thus is more than up to speed with the most recent learnings and insights in the field.

Dr Wray explains that her goal in being a BOGP reviewer was to “provide tangible examples to inspire and motivate others to do more in their patient engagement”.

She adds that the calibre of the submitted projects was “incredibly high”. “It was really motivating to see the commitment to patient engagement, the diversity in approaches but also the shared goal. I saw first hand how much is being done by so many and with such incredible results.”

Specifically, she was impressed by the projects that were most clearly patient-driven – she cites the co-creation of a cervical orthosis as a striking example. “It considered the alternative applications in different patient populations, valued the contributions of the patients to the whole and the methodologies they have employed to ensure that power dynamics are equal is critical in multi-stakeholder collaboration.”

Dr Wray advises future candidates to provide tangible examples and explain why they are important and the difference that was ultimately made. 

“As in the case I mentioned above, it was important that the power dynamic was equal as the patient population they were working with is quite transient. People shouldn’t feel they have to replicate what others have done, it is more valuable to see the reflective journey an individual or organisation has been on to identify areas for improvement and acknowledgement, that is specific to them in their context and patient engagement journey. For me, I don’t want to discourage people who are new to this as the first step on this journey is often the most significant.”

Every scenario will be different, stress Dr Wray. “We don’t want to give the impression that the BOGP is a ‘manual’ for patient engagement – this may raise expectations.”

Nonetheless, she feels the BOGP is on its way to becoming an essential resource for all stakeholders involved in patient engagement.

“I think it is so helpful to be able to signpost people to practical examples.  This will help them see what can be achieved and how they might go about doing something similar. It will also make others strive to improve and be more visible in this ecosystem.”