The James Lind Alliance (or JLA) provides a method that brings patients, carers and health and social care professionals together in Priority Setting Partnerships or PSPs, to set the Top 10 priorities for research in a particular area of health.
The views of people who live with medical conditions, and those who treat and care for them, provide important insights into people's needs, preferences and priorities. Getting their perspectives helps to make sure that the right research is being done and that we're making the best use of valuable research funding. Often the priorities of patients and those who care for them can be very different to those of researchers and funders.
The first step in a Priority Setting Partnership is to bring together a Steering Group to oversee the process. It's a small group including people who represent patients, carers and health professionals. The group works with an independent JLA Adviser to support and guide the process, to ensure that everyone can have their say, and that JLA principles are followed.
The next step is for the PSP to gather questions from patients, carers and health care professionals about their particular health area. For example people have asked
"what's the best way to treat my acne scars"
"should I recommend breathing exercises for my asthma patients"
"fear of falling really makes my older patients anxious. How can I best help with that".
PSPs typically do this using an online survey which they publicise to make sure that a wide range of patients carers and health professionals hear about the survey and complete it.
Once the survey is complete, the PSP will create a long list of summary questions from the responses that people have given them. They will check the questions against current research evidence to make sure they haven't already been answered. Any questions that have been answered and don't need further research are removed from the list.
The long list of unanswered questions is put into another online survey where patients, carers and health care professionals are asked to choose their most important questions based on their experience. This helps the PSP narrow down the long list of questions into a shorter list.
The final stage of the Priority Setting Partnership is a one-day workshop where up to 30 patients, carers and healthcare professionals come together to share their experiences and knowledge and jointly agree the final Top 10 most important questions for research.
The PSP will then work hard to publish and promote the Top 10 to research funders and researchers.
The JLA method therefore highlights research questions of direct relevance and potential benefit to patients and the clinicians who treat them, with the aim of influencing the way research funds are granted.
The JLA PSP process takes around 12 to 18 months. You can find out lots more about this on our website at www.jla.nihr.ac.uk
You can see us on twitter by following @LindAlliance