Kay’s Blog #4 (operating in this virtual world)

by | Oct 6, 2020 | Guest Authors | 0 comments

Public Contributor Kay Gallacher is Co-Chair of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health’s Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) Forum. She will be writing regular blogs to provide an update on her Co-Chair role, the Forum and other PPIE activities. 

As we come into October it seems strange to think that we have been operating in this virtual world for over 6 months.  I hope you are all keeping well during these uncertain times. I thought I’d write this blog to try to say how I feel that University staff and Public Contributors (PCs) can work better together in this new way.


As with many areas of our lives, communication is crucial.  The need for researchers, educators, staff and PCs to contact each other is even more important now than previously.  It is easy for us, PCs to feel left out if there’s not regular contact, so my top tip is to confirm receipt of all pieces of work we send back to you.  It’s difficult for us to know if someone is on holiday or if they didn’t like your message if you don’t get a response.  Just a brief email to say “Hi” is also very welcome, of course, there’s nothing stopping PCs contacting university staff regularly too, it’s a two-way thing. 

We need to consider the best way to continue connecting with the people who can’t attend virtual meetings because of lack of digital equipment or broadband coverage so as not to lose them.  On a positive note, I’m sure that there’s a whole raft of PCs who, for various reasons, would never be able to attend meetings at the University and for whom the idea of virtual involvement is brilliant. 

Zoom meetings:

Zoom meetings in the main, work well for me.  They feel tighter and we just get on with the business at hand.  There are downsides though –  I don’t think I’m alone in finding them very tiring.  My concentration wanders after ninety minutes so my top tip would be to have more frequent, shorter meetings. 

I do miss the camaraderie and chatting to people at the meetings.  Meeting across the airways doesn’t allow for the same team spirit and you definitely can’t pick up on non-verbal cues that add to interactions.  I also feel a bit disconnected from my fellow PCs and can’t show my concern for their wellbeing in the same way as in person.  My top tip would be to have a short (15 minutes) session before the meeting starts to give those who want to, a chance to chat and rebuild some of the “team” feel?

PPIE Celebration event: 

The PPIE Celebration event in July was, in my view, a good example of how to run an event on-line.  It was on time, well-structured and well organised without being complicated.  As Lynne from UCL commented about on-line events “make it simple in the first place, revisit it and then make it even simpler”. The Faculty has created a hints and tips resource for staff, students and PCs on how to effectively conduct PPIE during and beyond the pandemic. This resource was co-produced with event attendees and can be accessed: here


Training in how to use Zoom is essential.  Everyone’s done a great job of teaching themselves but a few additional useful tips would be great.  It sounds counter-intuitive but my top tip would be to have  a written note on the workings of Zoom. The Faculty recently hosted an online zoom training session for PCs and created a Zoom how to guide which can be accessed by everyone.

£5 allowance for PCs

I understand that NIHR are recommending a £5.00 per meeting standing allowance to cover the cost of telephone calls, printing, internet connections etc {Guidance available: here}.  My top tip is to consider including this additional payment for PCs, this is especially welcome as I, like many others have to print out agendas and meeting notes.

So, there you have it, my thoughts on virtual working.  I’m really proud to be part of a group that has responded so well to this new operating method.  Let’s do the tweaks and make it even better.

Best wishes,


For more information about other PPIE events, training and funding opportunities, you can sign up to our monthly digest, visit our website, follow us on twitter or email srbmh@manchester.ac.uk. For further PPIE resources, visit the Faculty’s PPIE Toolkit.


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