Whose decision is it anyway? A Forum Theatre workshop

Talk Code: 
Jess Drinkwater, Alice O'Grady and five actors
Jess Drinkwater (1), Delia Muir (2), Alice O’Grady (3), Anne MacFarlane (4), Maureen Twiddy (5), David Meads (1), Ruth H Chadwick (6), Ailsa Donnelly (6), Phil Gleeson (6), Nick Hayward (6), Michael Kelly (6), Robina Mir (6), Graham Prestwich (6), Martin Rathfelder(6), Robbie Foy (1)
Author institutions: 
(1) Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds. (2) Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research, University of Leeds. (3) School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds. (4) School of Medicine, University of Limerick (5) Institute of Clinical and Applied Health Research, University of Hull (6) Patient Participation in Improving General Practice co-research group, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds


We aim to explore relationships between patients and staff collaborating on general practice service improvement through an interactive co-produced online Forum Theatre (FT) workshop.

Participants will have the opportunity to experience FT and reflect on their own experiences of working in partnership with patients and staff.


  • Scene setting and warm up (10 minutes):

Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) in general practice, what are they, who is involved, and what are they for?

  • Live performance of a fictional PPG meeting. (10 minutes)
  • Facilitated discussion with the actors in role about their experience of the meeting and their relationships. (30 minutes)
  • Reflective discussion with the research team and actors out of role. (10 minutes)


Covid-19 offers an opportunity to reshape general practice services and improve patient care to support living and dying well. Who makes the decisions affects what decisions are made. The NHS constitution enshrines the rights of the public to be involved in service delivery decisions. In general practice this is enacted in part through contractual obligations to have a PPG. However, our research suggests the ability to share decisions meaningfully is mediated by relationships based on power, legitimacy, and credibility. Safe space for critical reflection is currently missing from practice, inhibiting impact.

We are a group of patients, researchers, and general practitioners, developing and evaluating interventions to support meaningful patient involvement in general practice organisational decision making. Working with actors and applied theatre practitioners we developed and piloted this online FT workshop with patients and staff.

FT is a problem solving technique within the broader Theatre of the Oppressed (TO). TO aims to explore power dynamics at a personal and societal level, aiming for empowerment of individuals and communities. Within our workshop, performance acts as a catalyst for discussion, with a focus on unresolved problems or power imbalances. A facilitator invites audience members to interact with the characters and explore whether they feel are oppressed or lacking power. Participants are encouraged to suggest practical solutions and rerun the performance to review their impact. This provides safe space for participants to critically reflect on their relationships and develop empathy for different perspectives.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to experience participating in the FT workshop. We will then facilitate a reflective discussion covering the process of co-producing the workshop, a comparison with public involvement in research, and FT as a mechanism for stimulating reflective practice.

Intended audience

Anyone interested in working in partnership and sharing decisions with patients and the public, including:

  • Researchers currently working with public contributors
  • Practitioners working with the public in a health care setting
  • Public contributors working with researchers or NHS staff
  • Anyone interested in applied theatre to stimulate reflective practice



This project has been sponsored by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. Additional funding from NHS England.

Jess Drinkwater is funded by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Doctoral Research Fellowship for this research project.

This abstract presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.