In September 2019, our research hub team in Ghana and our Birmingham-based Community Engagement and Involvement Manager came together to explore a truly novel area of collaborative working in LMIC countries.

Involving patients and the public in research design, implementation and dissemination of findings is a growing field in the UK, with funding bodies making it a requirement to collaborate with relevant lay audiences. There is emerging evidence of this approach leading to improved outcomes and study relevance. However, patient and public involvement and collaboration in research studies is not yet established in LMICs, with very few case studies and poor reporting available.

The Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery is pioneering involvement activities in Ghana in preparation for launching one of our randomised clinical trials looking at capacity building in district hospitals. The study focuses on the simple, yet very crucial procedure of hernia repair and addresses the shortfall of trained surgeons in rural areas. Dr Karolin Kroese, our Community Engagement and Involvement Manager, spent 10 days in Ghana with the local team, Hub Lead Prof Stephen Tabiri, Hub Manager Bernard Ofori Appiah and Research Nurse Ramatu Darling, visiting district hospitals in rural settings to talk to patients about their experiences living with hernias and having undergone surgery. Interviews were conducted around design, feasibility and acceptability of the proposed study, confirming the importance and relevance of this research area, as well as highlighting aspects that matter to patients and the affected community members.

Dr Karolin Kroese positively reflects on the visit to Ghana and the data gathered in the interviews, stating that ‘the patient angle informed aspects of the study that the research team had not been aware of’ and that ‘the patient feedback will lead to changes in the study design and protocol, helping to increase success and therefore impact of the study.’

Prof Stephen Tabiri summarises the success of consulting patients in this study by stating that even though ‘Community Involvement is a new term, it is the direction in which all clinical researchers should go.’