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BACKGROUND: Policy research aims to provide evidence to inform government policy decisions about health and social care. Engaging and involving the public and patients in this work is widely recognised as essential. Research funders prioritise equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE), but people who are most likely to experience poor outcomes are also those least likely to be involved in research. This paper describes our experience of setting out to understand how to overcome barriers to EDI in PPIE in the research carried out by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Policy Research Unit in Maternal and Neonatal Health and Care (PRU-MNHC), in a PPIE consultation project we called The Listening Series. METHODS: We convened five video-recorded online discussion groups involving 20 individuals advocating for groups who are under-represented in our research. Those taking part included people working with Black and Asian women and families, young parents, those from socially deprived backgrounds, and women and families with physical and learning disabilities. Discussions focussed on practical solutions to addressing challenges to people being excluded, and how to improve EDI in our research. LEARNING AND REFLECTION: Five key themes were identified: 'build trust'; 'involve us from the beginning'; 'show us impact'; 'use clear, appropriate and inclusive communication'; and 'imagine life in our shoes'. We used the learning to create a guidance document for researchers and an accompanying 15-minute film. We also took practical steps to embed the learning strategically by expanding our Task Group for PPIE in the PRU-MNHC to include four Listening Series invitees with a remit to champion EDI in our research and ensure that it is embedded in our PPIE activities. We continue to reflect on and work to address the associated challenges. CONCLUSIONS: The Listening Series helped us rethink our processes for inclusion to go beyond traditional methods of involvement and engagement. The themes identified pose challenges that require time, resource and empathic engagement from researchers to be meaningfully resolved. This has implications for policy makers and research funders who need to consider this in their processes.

Original publication




Journal article


Res Involv Engagem

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Diversity, equity, inclusion, Patient engagement, Patient involvement