Involving People in Healthcare Education at the University of Birmingham

A male talking to two females at a table.

The University of Birmingham is seeking to expand and enhance the involvement of patients and members of the public with its medical and healthcare related teaching programmes.

As a result of this, there are new opportunities to get involved at a variety of levels. We plan to expand the number of taught programmes that benefit from Involving People in Healthcare Education (IPHE), and to better coordinate this activity.

We will do this through establishment of a IPHE Group based in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences that will facilitate sharing of ideas and best practice. If you are interested, you can learn more about our plans for patient and public input into education, and to learn about the variety of taught programmes you could become involved with.

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What is IPHE?

IPHE stands for Involving People in Healthcare Education. It provides a channel for people with experience of the health service as users to be able to share their perspective, in ways that could lead to improvement of healthcare. “Involvement” in this context means participation in some way – by sharing with others the insights you have gained as a patient or carer.

IPHE in research can help to ensure that the research will be relevant, and improve the design of research — especially research that involves patients or other human volunteers.

IPHE in teaching can help ensure that people training to be doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, or biomedical researchers, never lose sight of the patient as an individual. It can help students learn how to communicate effectively and sympathetically with patients; and to appreciate what is important to patients, to make their experience of healthcare as positive as possible.

Contributor profiles

Carol initially trained as a speech and language therapist and later moved into higher education and research with health and education professionals. In retirement, involvement with the IPHE group has enabled her to continue to contribute to the development of professionals and to keep up with some current thinking.

Carol Miller
Carol Miller


Deb was a former psychiatric nurse who has had her own experiences of major depression and also has fibromyalgia, arthritis and diabetes. As a result of all this, she has seen a lot of health and social care professionals and worked in the world of patient and public engagement.

Deb Smith
Deb Smith




Janet retired 4 years ago after working for 25 years as a civil servant. She has worked as an auxiliary nurse in the community after spending ten years at home raising her family. Janet is a member of the Public Engagement in Nursing Group for the Nursing programme.

Janet Smith
Janet Smith



As an adult dyslexia specialist, Yvonne spent the final years of her career working with postgraduate medical trainees. Now retired, she relishes opportunities to continue to contribute. As a trained practice patient for a particular element of the Medical School curriculum, she finds working directly with students enormously rewarding.

Yvonne Gateley
Yvonne Gateley

Who can be involved?

Anyone can be involved, however IPHE representatives will often be people who have extensive experience of using the NHS, either as a patient (perhaps with a chronic condition) or as a carer of someone who is a patient.

For example, you may be a parent/carer of someone with a genetic condition; or you may have a long-term condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or cancer for which you have had ongoing interactions with the NHS over many years.

It is important to note that this is not the channel for complaints about specific problems you have encountered; we are looking for people who can use their experience of the NHS to contribute towards, and to help improve the training for our healthcare professionals.

Why is IPHE important for teaching?

Obviously much of the teaching of healthcare professionals will involve quite complex scientific or technical information which goes beyond the knowledge of most lay people — otherwise there would be little need for doctors or hospitals. However, when it comes to explaining what it is like for the patient to have a particular condition or treatment, or to care for or live with someone with such a condition, YOU may be the expert.  Also, healthcare professionals need to communicate with patients in the way that is most helpful for the patient and respectful of their priorities. Here again, you may be able to advise, or to help teach students how to communicate clearly with patients.

It is one of the 7 key principles that guide the NHS, that “the patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does”. It therefore makes sense that patients and the public should also be involved during the training of those who are training to work in the healthcare sector. 

What will it involve?

Possible ways to be involved may include,

  • Being part of a College IPHE group, to discuss issues, take part in training, and spread best practice
  • Being a IPHE representative to attend committee meetings for a particular course, to review its content and delivery
  • Reviewing and commenting on documentation for current courses,
  • Reviewing plans and contributing towards new course proposals
  • Suggesting ways in which students can be better informed about the patient’s experience
  • Helping with interviews
  • Taking part in classroom sessions or with small groups of students to discuss your own experience of a medical condition (e.g. diabetes or haemophilia, or undergoing screening for a genetic predisposition to a disease)
  • Advising or helping in role-play settings, to give students practice at various situations, such as taking a medical history or conveying bad news
  • Helping the students to learn how to write or explain things verbally in terms that lay people can understand
  • Other ways that a IPHE group may be able to suggest

Note that involvement in IPHE (for the great majority of those involved) will not be a full-time job; it will be occasional work. The types of work available will be made clear to you early in the process so you are able to pick and choose when you are involved. There is no regular time commitment needed (such as a weekly commitment). It is classed as casual work by the University. 

What is the benefit to me?

The main benefit to you will be the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to improve the training of those who will work in the NHS, and thus ultimately improve the service that the NHS is able to deliver to all patients.

We hope you will also enjoy the experience of coming to the University and engaging with the staff and students, and also with other IPHE representatives.

The time involved should be relatively little, so the fees will not be enough to live on, or to make you rich.  But we hope they will be an adequate compensation for the time and effort you commit.

This is not the forum for you to seek medical advice, or to seek to make changes to your medical care. For these, you should use the normal channels of the NHS, including your GP, the wider medical team involved in your care, NHS website and helplines, or your pharmacist.

Glossary of Terms

Athena Swan

Launched in June 2005, the Athena SWAN charter recognises and celebrates employment practices that address gender inequality in higher education and research.


British Medical Association are a professional body for doctors and medical students in the UK.


Bachelor of Nursing degree programme.

Board of Examiners

The Board of Examiners is the primary decision-making body for student progression, award and classification decisions.


The University's current virtual learning environment.


Curriculum Development Committee.

External Examiners

External examiners (taught provision) are appointed to provide the University with impartial and independent advice and informed comment on the institution's academic standards and student achievement in relation to those standards, through oversight of the assessment process at the module and programme/award level. All University programmes of study, and modules therein, leading to an award of credit at foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate taught level must have one or more external examiners appointed.


The General Dental Council is an organisation that regulates dental professionals in the UK.


The General Medical Council is a public body that maintains the official register of medical practitioners within the United Kingdom.


The General Pharmaceutical Council is the body responsible for the independent regulation of the pharmacy profession within England, Scotland and Wales, responsible for the regulation of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises.


Higher Education Institution, all universities and some further education colleges offering third level education.


The College of Medical and Dental Sciences is made up of 8 specialist institutes, delivering teaching and research.

Interprofessional education (IPHE)

Interprofessional education refers to occasions when students from two or more professions in health and social care learn together during all or part of their professional training with the object of cultivating collaborative practice for providing client - or patient-centered health care.

Intercalated Degree

Medical students may choose to step aside from their medical degree a year to study for an intercalated degree.


Involving People in Healthcare Education.


Medicine and Surgery 5 year undergraduate programme. There is also a four year MBChB Graduate Entry Medicine Course which is available to students with a first degree in a life science subject.


College of Medical and Dental Sciences


A Masters undergraduate Nursing Programme


A Masters level undergraduate degree programme that all aspiring pharmacists must complete, after which a student must satisfactorily complete a 12 month pre‐registration position, usually in a community or hospital pharmacy, before they sit the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) competency examinations to become a registered pharmacist. Although this takes place outside of the University after your graduation, the University will offer assistance to students as they apply for their pre‐registration positions.

Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)

A format used to interview candidates for the MBChB programmes and comprises of a number of stations that are a mix of interviews and calculation tasks.

Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

Is a form of examination used in health sciences

NIHR Involve

A national advisory group, part of the National Institute for Health Research and support active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research.


The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the regulator for nursing and midwifery professions in the UK. The NMC maintains a register of all nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses and nursing associates eligible to practise within the UK.


Postgraduate education involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees, academic or professional certificates, academic or professional diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor's degree generally is required.


Staff student Committee