Recruiting to your patient involvement activity

Once you’ve decided how you want to involve patients in shaping your research, it’s time to find them. The content, format and channels of your advertisement should all be tailored to your target audience. We recommend allowing at least 4 weeks for advertising and recruitment.

The selection process you use will often depend on the method of your involvement.


You generally won’t require a selection process for surveys as you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to complete it. If you need people with specific experiences to answer certain questions, you can use filter questions. 

Interviews and focus groups

Recruitment for interviews and focus groups can be on a ‘first come, first served’ basis depending on your target audience. You can use a simple registration form to ask any eligibility questions. Here is an example you can use. This could be completed by people directly, or over the phone. We recommend only doing this if necessary, as it can be a barrier to applying.

Patient representatives and patient advisory panels

For ongoing patient involvement roles, we recommend having a recruitment process similar to applying for a job. Investing the time recruiting the right people for these roles will help both you and the patient get the most from the involvement experience.

Recruitment process

The patient involvement recruitment process for patient representatives and patient advisory panels can follow this order:

  1. Advertise: Get the word out about your patient involvement opportunity. Use the information below to help you write an effective advertisement.
  2. Expression of interest: Ask patients to get in touch if they’re interested in the role. This is where you can provide them the role profile and application form.
  3. Shortlist: Applications will help you shortlist for interviews.
  4. Communicate shortlisting outcomes: Let applicants know if they’ve been shortlisted for an interview as soon as possible. Give shortlisted candidates all the details they’ll need for the interview. Will it be face to face or over the telephone? Where is it? When is it (try being flexible and work around their availability)? How long will it last? Who will they be interviewed by?

    Provide unsuccessful applicants with some context about why they weren’t shortlisted. Sometimes this is simply because there was a lot of interest in the role. Other times, elements of the application may not have met expectations. In this case provide some constructive feedback (limit to one or two areas of improvement) via email or offer a call to talk through feedback. If you’re aware of other patient involvement opportunities you think they might be suited to, then point them towards those opportunities.

  5. Interviews: This is the opportunity for both you and the patient to figure out if they’re the right fit for the role. This can be quite a daunting experience, so take the time to make applicants feel welcome, valued and at ease. Ask questions that are relevant to the role and provide prompts to help them. Here’s an interview template and example for you to use.
  6. Communicate interview outcomes: It’s best practice to let people know the outcome of the interview over the phone. It’s more personal and gives successful and unsuccessful applicants the opportunity to ask questions. Provide some context about why unsuccessful applicants didn’t get the role. People are generally happy that you found the right person for the role, even if it’s not them. Provide successful candidates with key information like how you will induct them, when the first meeting is and who their key contact will be moving forward. Make sure to maintain regular contact with them until they start.

Where to advertise your patient involvement opportunity

Common channels to advertise for patient involvement opportunities include:

If you’re are looking for patients who are less experienced in patient involvement and/or are closer to their cancer experience it may better reach them through:

  • Local community groups
  • Local charities
  • GP surgeries or health services
  • Local newspapers
  • Local or national patient support groups
  • Local NHS Trusts

Preparing patients for your patient involvement activity

Once you've recuited your patients, continue on to preparing your patients for your activity.

Preparing patients for your patient involvement activity