There are many examples of consumer involvement in NHS research but few studies have examined the impact of this on service development or the research process. This study, involving service user and carer researchers working alongside professional researchers, aimed to examine the development of one service user and carer research group in a mental health Trust.
The research involved a review of existing literature on consumer involvement in research, a review of user involvement in research in South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, a survey of consumers and NHS staff in the Trust, and a skills audit and training needs analysis of consumers.
The study identified the range and extent of consumer involvement and the impact of this on consumers and the Trust. Service users and carers were involved in a range of projects, mainly on the level of consultation or collaboration. The benefits for consumers were principally on a personal level and included gaining knowledge and experience, improved sense of well‐being, self esteem, and confidence. The benefit for the Trust was in having a service user perspective and focus. However, there is a tendency to omit service users from planning and setting priorities.
The study pointed to the need to build the evidence base on consumer involvement in research, particularly in terms of how consumers can impact on setting research priorities and selecting appropriate methods. It identifies the need for more training for consumers and for NHS staff and for a more coherent strategy.
This article will be of value to anyone who is at the start or in the early stages of their journey of consumer involvement. It identifies some of the practical issues faced by consumers and staff in working collaboratively, but also points to the benefits for all the stakeholders.