Background: Involvement of users in health care research is central to UK health care policy, and guidelines for involvement exist. However, there are limited examples in rheumatology research. The aim of this study was to establish a community knee pain forum aimed at engaging stakeholders in design, dissemination and prioritisation of knee pain research.
Methods: Ten people were recruited to the forum representing a wide range of agencies. These included Weight Watchers, the leisure industry, Beth Johnson Foundation, health and social care professionals and the public. Three two-hour meetings over a two-year period were held. Experienced qualitative researchers facilitated each meeting. Written feedback after each meeting was elicited, and a short evaluation form was mailed to all members after the final meeting.
Results: Establishing and maintaining a forum of mixed members required careful preparation and ongoing support. Meetings had to be well-structured in order to allow for balanced participation of lay and professional users. Users contributed to the design of methods, provided ideas for dissemination and set priorities for further research. Clear documentation of meetings ensured that users' contributions to the research cycle were transparent.
Conclusion: Our knee pain forum illustrates that community engagement can have a positive impact on the development, dissemination and implementation of health research. Engaging with non-academic partners enables mutual learning and this enhances the quality of NHS research.