Frequently asked questions about working with patient and public voice partners during the COVID-19 pandemic

This series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) has been produced by the NHS England and NHS Improvement Public Participation team.

Updated on 16 December 2021, the FAQs offer practical advice and suggestions for engagement practitioners and others working with people and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic (also known as coronavirus). It is good practice advice and not formal or statutory guidance – existing statutory guidance still stands. It does not provide public health or clinical advice around COVID-19, which should be accessed via gov.uk, our website or nhs.uk.

The term patient and public voice (PPV) partner is used in these FAQs but also refers to service user partners, experts by experience, patient or citizen representatives.

As with all potentially ‘non-essential’ activity, consider the impact on staff capacity at this time of high demand. However, there is no requirement to pause this recruitment, assuming your existing communications routes are still operating. Consider the most appropriate method for interviewing shortlisted candidates for example, virtually using video conferencing. If you are targeting the recruitment at groups known to be more likely to be digitally excluded, for example inclusion health groups, you should consider how digital access issues can be addressed for example, through training, provision of devices and/or data to enable access, or presentation of materials in different formats; or whether postponement may be appropriate.

Yes, but people may be reluctant to meet face-to-face in which case you may need to consider using remote or virtual / online methods.

Yes, where possible and pragmatic. Many established committees, forums and partnerships have PPV partners embedded and are involved in response planning. 

People may be reluctant to meet face-to-face. During the pandemic we have learnt that other methods of engagement, for example virtual meetings have proven to be just as effective as face-to-face meetings. You may want to consider teleconferences, video conferences or webinars. If this format will not work for group members, then it may be necessary to adopt a mixed approach tailored to the needs of individuals or consider postponing the meetings.

Everyone can help by following the guidance on gov.uk, our website or nhs.uk. People may also be interested in becoming an NHS volunteer responder, or joining local COVID-19 community action groups.

Ensure that all government and NHS guidelines are followed. You should also follow your organisational policies that support PPV partner involvement.

Many PPV partners may have underlying health conditions and may need to follow specific health advice. Guidance is available on gov.uk, our website or nhs.uk.

If your organisation offers expenses for certain roles, then the terms of engagement for these roles should remain unchanged. If PPV partners continue to undertake activities as part of their agreed roles, they should be able to claim expenses in line with the agreed terms of their role. Refer to your organisational policies for supporting public involvement.

If your organisation offers involvement payments for certain roles, types of involvement or committee membership, then the terms of engagement for these roles should remain unchanged. If PPV partners continue to join meetings as part of their agreed roles, they should be able to claim in line with the agreed terms of their role. Refer to your organisational policies for supporting public involvement.

It is useful to allocate PPV partners a staff ‘buddy’ who can provide some support and a ‘friendly ear’. Ensure they know who the buddy is and that they are available to talk / signpost to support as needed. There is government advice on looking after your mental health. For staying safe and health queries, always refer to the latest advice on gov.uk, our website or nhs.uk.

NHS England offers a range of learning and development opportunities for PPV partners. Further information is available on the learning and development page of our Involvement Hub. For staying safe and health queries, always refer to the latest advice on gov.uk, our website or nhs.uk.