The dawn of the patient research ambassadors

It is 2016 – ten years after the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) was established. The research arm of the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has contributed significantly to improving the health and wealth of the nation, to the point where they are recognised as the most comprehensive research system in the world. Does this remind you of a certain movie plot involving a Simian Flu pandemic? Don’t worry – research isn’t leading to genetically evolved apes! It is, however, leading to a new era of innovation, whereby patients are at the forefront of cutting edge research, from the bench to the bedside, making a positive impact to the future of healthcare in our country.

What is a Patient Research Ambassador?

A Patient Research Ambassador is someone who promotes health research from a patient’s point of view. Whether you are a patient, service user, carer or lay individual who is enthusiastic about health research – it doesn’t matter. Patient Research Ambassadors should be able to communicate their passion and enthusiasm for research to other patients, members of the public and healthcare professionals, influencing a culture whereby research is an integral aspect of modern healthcare in our country.


Why do we need Patient Research Ambassadors?

The NIHR would like to involve both patients and NHS researchers to recognise the importance of research in delivering healthcare. As a Patient Research Ambassador, you can help ensure that people using local NHS care have the best opportunities and choices about taking part in research studies, and about informing the way in which research is prioritised, designed, evaluated and implemented.

Many of us are already Patient Research Ambassadors

Many patients, carers, and members of the public are already doing excellent work in the healthcare research community and may not recognise themselves as ‘Patient Research Ambassadors’. In some cases, the Patient Research Ambassador role might be an extension or natural development of what you are already doing under a different name. For example, ‘involved patient’, ‘lay representative’, ‘hospital volunteer’, and ‘patient partner’. The Patient Research Ambassador title is not meant to replace any current research role you may be involved in, but is a natural evolution of what you may do, and the influence you may have. Click here to find out more.


How to become a Patient Research Ambassador

If you are already involved in your local NHS care organisation as a volunteer or as a patient and public involvement representative within the NIHR, or have no involvement at all, but you are interested in becoming a Patient Research Ambassador, then you may want to register your interest, which will allow you to be notified of upcoming opportunities -both locally and nationally. Registering your interest also allows you to be able to share your experiences and stories, and link up with other Patient Research Ambassador’s in your region.


A new look for the Patient Research Ambassador Initiative

The Patient Research Ambassador Initiative (PRAI) website has recently migrated to the refreshed NIHR website, within the patient and public section. The initiative has some ambitious aims for the next two years, which include:

  • To establish Patient Research Ambassador’s in at least 50% of NHS organisations by 2016-2017 and in a minimum of 85% by 2017-2018;
  • To support and cultivate communities of best practice in Patient Research Ambassador activities;
  • To establish regional groups in a minimum of 50% Local Clinical Research Networks by 2016-2017 and 100% in 2017-2018.

For further information about the Patient Research Ambassador Initiative, please contact: and if you’re on Twitter, follow @NIHR_PRAI, and include the hashtags #researchambassador and #NHSresearch in your tweets and other social media posts.



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