How to get involved

There are many ways to get involved in helping us to develop and improve the services which the Trust delivers. Examples include attending focus groups and meetings, involvement on steering groups, committees and forums, and getting involved in research and patient satisfaction surveys. We would like to hear from you if you would like to become involved with our Trust. 

For further information on how to get involved contact:

Sandra McCarry
Senior Manager for Community Development and PPI
Tel:  (028) 9504 6739

Personal and Public Involvement

Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) is the active and effective involvement of service users, carers and the public in Health and Social Care (HSC) services.

Personal and Public Involvement has been a statutory duty since 2009, and BHSCT produced its first involvement framework, ‘Involving You’ a year earlier, in 2008, following a year-long process of engagement. To replace this now outdated document, and in light of changes to the Trust’s own structure and to the regional structures supporting PPI, the Trust produced an ‘Organisational Framework for the Management of PPI’ in 2015.

This new framework is structured around the 5 DHSSPS standards and builds on the work of ‘Involving You’. It aims to embed PPI into the governance and accountability structure within the Trust.

DHSSPS standards for PPI are:  

  • PPI leadership
  • PPI Governance
  • Opportunities for involvement 
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Measuring outcome

Setting the Standards – Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) | HSC Public Health Agency

The key elements of the Framework are:

  • Ensuring good, clear leadership for PPI
  • The establishment of a PPI standing forum to have a role in planning and monitoring PPI activity within the Trust
  • Further development of PPI training
  • Ensuring that each Directorate has a PPI Action Plan 
  • Development of a robust process for monitoring PPI activity
  • Creation of opportunities for involvement
  • Development of partnerships to ensure effective PPI

In summary, the focus of this new framework is on ensuring a clear, strong infrastructure to support PPI and the development of good governance and accountability arrangements.

Examples of how people have got involved

A number of services have established service user forums, which meet regularly. Examples of these are:

  • Gynae Users Forum – to assist the Trust in improving gynaecological services
  • BHSCT HIV Service Users Forum – to provide opportunities for partnership working and engagement between Trust services, service users and relevant support agencies with the aim of improving services. As a result of this Forum a number of service improvements have been introduced, most notably with regard to the appointments system for the clinic.
  • Neurology Service User Forum – to improve services, to identify the needs of patients and service users, and to provide a patient and service user voice

Other services, such as the Gender Identity Service, have made use of one-off service user panels to involve patients to receive feedback and offer opportunities to influence how services are designed, or to help shape information leaflets for health professionals. 

Service Reviews

At times there are opportunities to become involved in service reviews undertaken by a variety of services. Services may undertake questionnaires and/or interviews and focus groups with service users and/or carers to receive feedback with view to improving the service. The information gathered helps to shape the changes which are made. Some examples are below:

The School of Dentistry undertook a postal questionnaire and a series of face-to-face interviews with service users to receive patient feedback with view to improving the service. As a result of this the service is reviewing all its patient information, to ensure this is user-friendly. Focus groups will provide further opportunities for involvement.

The Regional Spina Bifida Services at the Children’s Hospital of the Royal Victoria Hospital wanted to review the current provision of outpatient services to determine whether improvements could be made. Postal questionnaires were distributed to service users and focus groups were held to obtain the views of parents, children and young people on their experiences of the service. This was followed up with a workshop attended by staff, parents and SHINE, a voluntary organisation which supports families in all aspects of care of spina bifida. During the workshop all these stakeholders jointly developed an action plan for improvements to the service.

The NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum (NICRCF) provides a resource and visible focus for PPI activity related to cancer research. The members of the NICRCF are patients and carers affected by cancer with an interest in shaping cancer research in NI. The members provide a vital patient and carer voice in this work, throughout the various aspects of the clinical research process, including therapeutic research options for patients.

In Mental Health Services and Learning Disability Services service users have the opportunity to sit on interview panels for staff.

The Stroke Development Group invited a service user and a carer to join the group in order to participate in discussions about the future development of the service. As a result, Trust staff have become much more aware of the needs of service users and carers through this involvement and the service is being shaped accordingly.

The ‘Help stop Choking’ project was developed by Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) in conjunction with a service user who has a learning disability and a physical disability, as well as other health problems. He had worked with SLT to reduce his risk of choking and, as he felt that this work had saved his life, he was inspired to share his story to help others reduce their risk of choking. The service obtained a small amount of funding and was able to produce a DVD, which features the service user working closely with a series of other professionals. The resources created have had dramatic benefits and have transformed the way the service delivers care.

The Occupational Therapy Service has involved service users in the Regional Wheelchair Training Programme for Occupational Therapists. Service users co-present on topics related to their circumstances. This input has made training more relevant and has enabled occupational therapists (OT) to better understand the needs of individual service users, and, as a result provide more appropriate wheelchair prescriptions. Furthermore, service users are also involved in the production of all training materials, working in partnership with the Wheelchair Training OT to produce photographs, videos and quotations for use in the training materials.


Many services also offer opportunities for service users to get involved in regular groups and activities, such as:

  • Service user groups for day centres
  • Inputting into newsletters

There are also opportunities to participate in, for example, one-off focus groups, questionnaires, face-to-face or telephone interviews. Generally these undertaken to:

  • Review services and make resulting improvements
  • Input into changes to the physical environment
  • Input into proposed service changes
  • Input into patient/carer information, newsletters, and other materials.

For a list of opportunities to become involved, please click here

BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Groups

The BHSCT BME Health and Wellbeing Steering Group, which is chaired by Catherine McNicholl, Director of Adult Social and Primary Care, organised a workshop for representatives of ethnic minority organisations in 2013. Through this workshop, the Trust has developed a BME Health and Wellbeing Action Plan, which included mapping the specific services for ethnic minority users within the Trust and identified the priority areas for meeting the needs of ethnic minority service users, which included BME mental health services and services for older people.

Following a workshop for BME groups to discuss and identify carers’ issues, the BME Carers Support Group was formed. The Trust’s Carers Co-ordinator and the BME Community Development Practitioner support the group and discuss the carers’ needs and concerns, either individually or in the group and involve them in planning future programmes and supports.


The Trust employs 3 Traveller Community Health Workers who facilitate a range of involvement activities with people from the Traveller Community.


 The Trust employs 2 Roma Community Health Workers who facilitate a range of involvement activities with people from the Roma Community. 

Carers Involvement

There are many different ways carers can get involved in influencing how services are developed in the Belfast Trust. So far carers have been active in:

  • Discussing their experiences with staff
  • Sharing their ideas how services can be improved 
  • Developing a Carer’s Handbook and website information 
  • Reviewing carer information leaflets 
  • Delivering training for healthcare professionals
  • Organising carer events alongside staff
  • Commenting on draft Trust policies and guidance
  • Being a member of the Trust’s Carer Strategy Group
  • Being a member of the Trust’s Carers Reference Group

There are other ways of being involved, see Current Opportunities for Involvement. Carers do not necessarily have to attend meetings, as feedback can also be given by phone, email or by post. Find out more here