I first became involved with Voice North in September 2013 via the British Science Festival held in Newcastle. I went to a presentation about ways of keeping older drivers on the road which was very interesting and I got to go on the simulator! I asked one of the researchers if there were any more opportunities for that sort of involvement and she suggested I enrol with Voice North. I am so pleased I did, because there has been a plethora of events, lectures, debates and discussion groups on a variety of topics, all of which are free, and all of which are entirely voluntary. You can pick and choose what interests you and some of the one-to-one sessions with researchers have been challenging and quite fascinating. I have made new friends and importantly there is a nice warm feeling of giving something back by volunteering.
Recently I was invited to become the lay representative on the Trial Steering Committee for the British Heart Foundation SENIOR RITA (Randomised Interventional Treatment in Acute Non ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) project which is concerned with the degree of intervention appropriate to patients over 75 who have suffered a minor heart attack. The basic commitment is two meetings per year, at most, for five years, but I have chosen to be involved a bit more.
Dr Vijay Kunadian, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Freeman Hospital, whose study this is, asked me to review the document for patients which is where a lay person’s opinion is useful. We had a lengthy, very light hearted, meeting the other day to “de-jargonise” the document and make it a better “sell” to the patients in order to encourage them to take part. The other members of the steering group are extremely high-flying medics and statisticians and when Dr Kunadian told me about them, I was a little intimidated, but thinking it through, the role of the lay representative is exactly what it says - to represent the patients views and saying “I don’t understand what that is about” when necessary or “I don’t think I would like that if I were the patient”.
The level of involvement is just what you want it to be. There is no pressure, but I have to say it becomes somewhat addictive. Hearing about, and being involved in, the world leading research being done in Newcastle is an amazing opportunity and while Voice North needs you, you will soon find you need Voice North and open the emails like a kid with a new comic.