Remote working in public involvement: findings from a mixed methods study

Elisa Jones, Lucy Frith, Mark Gabbay, Naheed Tahir, Muhammad Hossain, Mark Goodall, Katie Bristow, Shaima Hassan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: This paper considers remote working in patient public involvement and engagement (PPIE) in health and social care research. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lock-down measures in the UK (from March 2020), PPIE activities switched to using remote methods (e.g., online meetings), to undertake involvement. Our study sought to understand the barriers to and facilitators for remote working in PPIE by exploring public contributors' and PPIE professionals' (people employed by organisations to facilitate and organise PPIE), experiences of working remotely, using online and digital technologies. A particular focus of our project was to consider how the 'digital divide' might negatively impact on diversity and inclusion in PPIE in health and social care research.

METHODS: We used a mixed method approach: online surveys with public contributors involved in health and social care research, online surveys with public involvement professionals, and qualitative interviews with public contributors. We co-produced the study with public contributors from its inception, design, subsequent data analysis and writing outputs, to embed public involvement throughout the study.

RESULTS: We had 244 respondents to the public contributor survey and 65 for the public involvement professionals (PIPs) survey and conducted 22 qualitative interviews. Our results suggest public contributors adapted well to working remotely and they were very positive about the experience. For many, their PPIE activities increased in amount and variety, and they had learnt new skills. There were both benefits and drawbacks to working remotely. Due to ongoing Covid restrictions during the research project, we were unable to include people who did not have access to digital tools and our findings have to be interpreted in this light.

CONCLUSION: Participants generally favoured a mixture of face-to-face and remote working. We suggest the following good practice recommendations for remote working in PPIE: the importance of a good moderator and/or chair to ensure everyone can participate fully; account for individual needs of public contributors when planning meetings; provide a small expenses payment alongside public contributor fees to cover phone/electricity or WiFi charges; and continue the individual support that was often offered to public contributors during the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalResearch Involvement and Engagement
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2022


  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • Digital literacy
  • Health inequalities
  • Online video conferencing
  • Public patient involvement and engagement
  • Remote working


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