Working collaboratively with public groups to support safe and transparent surgical innovation

  • 5 August 2021

The Surgical Innovation team are one step closer to developing a list of baseline information, known as a core information set, to guide consultation discussions following a milestone multi-stakeholder meeting last month. This list will ensure NHS patients being offered new procedures and devices receive more transparent and consistent information about innovations in surgery.

Surgery is a common treatment for a range of different health problems, meaning most people will undergo surgery at some point in their lifetime. In some cases, people are given the option of operations that are new and innovative. These can include completely new or modified operations such as using robotic techniques or new surgical devices, often involving implantable devices like stents, lenses or pacemakers.

Helping patients choose between undergoing a new or standard operation is challenging because there are many things to consider. There may be a lack of research, or unexpected changes that may occur during the operation if there is a problem.

It’s therefore important to ensure there is a minimum of consistent information available to patients that allows them to fully understand the potential risks. It is also important that patients understand what ‘unknowns’ there are about new procedures and how they differ from standard treatments. Having this information will ultimately support fully informed consent and shared decision making in surgical innovation.

On 30 July 2021, members of the NIHR Bristol BRC’s Surgical Innovation team brought together 25 external participants. They met to discuss and refine what baseline information patients should be told during consultations where new procedures or devices are discussed as an option for treatment. This group included nine patient representatives and 16 professionals from various backgrounds such as clinicians, lawyers, ethicists and representatives from regulatory bodies.

By working with a diverse group of patient representatives such as this, the team has ensured that the core information set will be relevant and meaningful to NHS patients. Development of the core information set is an ongoing process which will continue to involve the meeting participants. The results will be ready to be shared later this year.

Val Snelgrove, one of the public representatives at the stakeholder meeting, said:

“I was very pleased to be asked to join this meeting as a patient representative and impressed that so many of us were included. I was always given the chance to make comments and suggestions and the other delegates listened without interruption then discussed my points. Everything I raised was taken seriously, considered and on several occasions adopted as a better representation of what a patient might understand or how much they might want to know.”

Professor Jane Blazeby, academic lead for the NIHR Bristol BRC’s Surgical Innovation theme, said:

“We recognise the immense importance of the input from a diverse range of patient and public representatives at these stakeholder meetings. It provides invaluable patients’ perspectives on our research. The development of tools such as the core information set, will support safe and transparent surgical innovation, so we made a collaborative effort from the beginning to ensure our research outputs are meaningful and relevant in clinical practice.

“We are extremely grateful for these contributions that are made possible by our well-established links to the NHS, public sector organisations, other high-calibre research institutes and passionate healthcare professionals.”

To find out more about the core information set you can contact Christin Hoffmann ( one of the researchers involved in the study.