During May, we are posting a series of blogs about patient and public involvement as part of the NIHR’s Be Part of Research campaign to mark this year’s International Clinical Trials Day.

Elaina Gill, aged 17, is studying for her T Levels and attended the King’s Health Partners Summer School run by our BRC in 2019. Elaina enjoyed the Summer School so much that she became a member of our Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG). After Elaina had worked with our team for some time, Elaina’s mum, Vanessa Gill decided to join the Research Advisory Group (RAG). Vanessa is a Clinical Nurse Specialist working in Nuclear Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.

We spoke to them to find out more about their experiences of our Patient and Public Involvement groups.

Why did you join the YPAG and the RAG?

Elaina: I joined the YPAG because I had a massive interest in clinical research after the summer school program and I want to go into Biomedical Sciences at university. I believed that in joining YPAG I would gain a vast amount of knowledge about research and the careers involved.

Vanessa: After Elaina joined the YPAG, I became interested in research and started to see how I could be useful. I could see how much she was getting out of being involved in the YPAG.  As I was working from home during the pandemic, I decided to find out more. I have been at the Trust for many years now and between work and family, I just wasn’t aware of opportunities to get involved and never really had the time to look into it. As well as working for the Trust, I have also been a patient and I am a resident of the community so I was keen for my voice to be heard. If only one set of voices are able to speak up, how can we hope to cater for everyone?

What has your experience of the RAG/YPAG been?

Elaina: My overall experience of YPAG has been amazing! Whilst in the group I met so many professionals in various careers who shared their knowledge and experience in the field. The group is varied in ages and experience which makes it all the more exciting. I’ve made many friends from it. We have been able to give not only our perspective as the public but as young people to staff which means a great deal to me.

Vanessa: I was really pleased to find out that I could come to meetings as and when I can – there is no mandatory attendance so I can be flexible. Having groups online is also a huge bonus for me as I don’t have to worry about travel time and it makes the meetings much more accessible for me.

What do you enjoy about being part of the RAG/YPAG?

Elaina: I enjoy being a part of the engagement and raising awareness of the research carried out by researchers to patients and members of the public. I also enjoy learning about the different types of research going on currently as it has not only expanded my knowledge base but also helped me to understand various diseases and illnesses.

Vanessa: I was so pleased to see the diversity of the group, in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. They really are a great representation of our community and there is a great range of voices at the table. This puts our group in the best position to say how best to reach the community and how best to care for them.

What would you say to other thinking of joining the RAG/YPAG?

Elaina: If you are interested in sciences especially research, it’s an amazing opportunity to meet likeminded individuals and talented professionals in various fields. If you are in year 11 or sixth form, it is a great addition to your CV and UCAS applications as it shows that you have an interest outside of formal education. It is a program that is unlike any other and therefore I would highly recommend it!

Vanessa: I truly believe that the more voices we have, the better. As a nurse, my passion is patient care so this allows me to be even more of an advocate for my patients. Getting involved in research has also given me new insights. We all know our own field and areas of interest and this gives us a new perspective which can all lead to better patient care.

For more information on our PPI groups, contact our PPI Manager Jacintha McGahon.