Why the JLA method?
The JLA involves both patients and clinicians equally in setting priorities for research. The JLA method is designed to raise awareness of research questions that are of direct relevance and potential benefit to patients, their carers and the healthcare professionals who work with them, with the aim of leading to changes in the way research funding is granted. The method has been developed and refined since the completion of the first PSP, in Asthma, in 2007.
The optimum long-term outcome for any JLA PSP is that one or more of the uncertainties it identifies is turned into a research study, and that this goes on to have a life-changing impact on the treatments or services available to patients and the way in which these are delivered.
Focusing on specific conditions, or areas of health and social care, the JLA facilitates PSPs which:
- bring patient, carer and clinician groups together on an equal footing
- identify evidence uncertainties which are important to these groups
- work with these groups to jointly prioritise the uncertainties
- produce a ‘Top 10’ list of jointly agreed uncertainties as research questions to be presented to funders.
The JLA PSP process results in a Top 10. The aim of the Top 10 is to highlight important areas for research, but not necessarily to come up with the specific research questions. The Top 10 may include broader areas of importance where patients, carers and health professionals have agreed that there is a need for research. This informs researchers and research funders about priorities so that they can make their research as meaningful as possible to the people who need it.
At the outset of a PSP it is important to consider who the PSP wants to influence, the impact it hopes to make on the research and funding community and how this might be achieved. PSP Steering Groups need to consider the long-term ownership of the priorities and take responsibility for encouraging the research and funding community to address the priorities. Investing time at the outset to consider and agree who the priorities will be promoted to, how they will be developed into research, and how this long-term support for the priorities will be resourced is vital for the success of the PSP.
In 2019, Sally Crowe and Kristina Staley undertook a project to identify the most effective ways for JLA PSP priorities to influence the research agenda by evaluating the different approaches PSPs have taken. Their report More than a Top 10: How James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships transform research, people and organisations provides useful insight for anyone thinking of establishing a PSP, including examples of the practical steps that PSPs have taken to maximise their impact. This published article also describes their work.
A simple summary of the JLA PSP process is now available as an animated video.