Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

How can health service users contribute to the NHS research and development programme?

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1318
  1. Sandra R Oliver, antenatal teachera
  1. a Research and Information Group, National Childbirth Trust, London W3 6NH
  1. Correspondence to: Dr S R Oliver, The White Cottage, Crampshaw Lane, Ashtead, Surrey KT21 2UD.

    The National Childbirth Trust, along with other groups of health service users, is working with health professionals and researchers in planning clinical trials, setting priorities for research, systematically reviewing research reports, and getting research findings into practice. User groups may bridge the gap between the public and researchers by explaining research issues to a wide audience, presenting the needs and views of health service users to the research community, and suggesting how members of the public may be approached for their views directly. Service users recognise their need for training and support, and they call for development and evaluation of this work.


    The NHS research and development programme is trying to reflect the concerns of consumers throughout its work.1 This implies inviting input from health service users at all stages, from setting the research agenda to the planning and execution of projects, and reporting their findings.

    While the NHS has been developing its research and development strategy the National Childbirth Trust has been raising awareness of research issues among its 56000 members and consulting them, as well as representing health service users in research projects or programmes. Writing as a member of the National Childbirth Trust's Research and Information Group, I shall discuss the difficulties we have met in making such contributions.

    We have found that “too often what women have to say about their experiences is either ignored, forgotten or dismissed. … [Their] views must be publicised and specifically drawn to the attention of health professionals, policy makers and researchers, and the implications which flow from them for the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth should be emphasised.”2 With this in mind the trust has undertaken surveys on women's experiences of epidurals, postnatal infection, rupture of membranes in labour, and the perineum in childbirth.3 4 …

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