How We Got Started

What is People in Health West of England?

The overall aim of People in Health West of England (PHWE) is to promote a strong public voice within health and social care research and help to improve the services provided by the NHS and social care.

When we say the ‘public’ we mean a variety of people who bring a range of different perspectives.  For example, patients, service-users, carers, family members, and people from community or voluntary groups.  We call all members of the public who get involved ‘public contributors’.

PHWE is a network of people and organisations who work together to encourage good quality public involvement.  The network links up members of the public and staff across the West of England region, so that we develop and share relevant knowledge, skills and resources.  The region includes Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire.  PHWE is a collaboration led by the University of the West of England.

However, most of the health and social care research and other projects that public contributors work on are not undertaken by PHWE directly.  These activities take place in different organisations in the wider health and social care system, for example, in universities, research and improvement collaborations and service providers.

What is public involvement?

Public involvement in health and social care brings patients, service users, family members, carers and other members of the public into the planning and conduct of research and service improvement.  This could mean, for example, helping to identify problems that need attention, deciding how to investigate them, collecting relevant information and understanding what has been found out.  It can also mean putting changes into practice.  The aim is to help organisations and their staff listen to people who are affected by services and families, carers, communities, voluntary organisations and wider public perspectives.

You can find out more about what public involvement is hereSome people use other terms to describe similar activities, for example, Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) or public engagement.

What PHWE does

We link up people interested in public involvement to develop and share relevant knowledge, skills and resources.  Our work includes the following key activities:

  • Widely advertising any opportunities for members of the public to get involved in research in the West of England
  • Providing good practice advice and guidance about public involvement
  • Encouraging diverse and inclusive involvement
  • Sharing accessible resources and information, in particular on the PHWE website
  • Providing a learning and development programme about public involvement for staff and public contributors
  • Supporting staff and public contributors, particularly those working directly with PHWE and its partner organisations
  • Encouraging consistent policies and a co-ordinated approach to public involvement within PHWE partner organisations (see below)

How do public contributors work within PHWE?

PHWE’s work is conducted through two groups, a Steering Group which decides the network’s overall aims and what resources and capacity are available, and an Operational Group which develops and monitors our work plan.  There are public contributors on both groups.

As well as working in the Steering Group and/or Operational Group all public contributors working in PHWE are also linked with one of the PHWE partner organisations.

There are two public contributors on the Operational Group from each partner organisation, plus a member of staff.  The public contributor role within each partner organisation is different, but often includes being a member of a strategic or executive group.  All public contributors in the PHWE Operational Group will have additional information about the work of each partner organisation and that part of their public involvement role.  For a list of the partner organisations see below.

This information describes the work done within the PHWE network itself, it does not describe the broad range of public involvement activities, or the public contributor role, in the PHWE partner organisations or in the wider health and social care system.