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1. I’m considering setting up a PPG at my practice, but I’m concerned that it will simply attract complaints rather than constructive feedback

It is a common concern that a PPG will simply be a forum for patients to complain – but evidence from existing PPGs shows that this isn’t the case and in fact patients are equally keep to make the group positive and action-focused.

Once a PPG has been set up, it is important though to keep it fresh and ensure that everyone is focused on making positive change. This can be done by:

  • Ensuring all members have equal input
  • Establishing a collaborative culture, with the practice and between the members
  • Rotating the PPG chair on a regular basis to provide fresh perspectives
  • Learning from the experiences and successes of other PPGs

N.A.P.P. has produced guidance, based on real life examples, on how to run a PPG to best effect, along with case studies of PPG successes.

2. What value do PPGs offer to practices and patients?

Patients have long valued the relationship with their GP, however the dynamics of this relationship have changed over recent years – patients today rightly want more say in their own healthcare, they are better informed and expect to be treated as whole people, not as a condition or ailment. PPGs can help GPs in developing an equal partnership with their patients. They can help them to communicate accurately and honestly with individual patients and with the wider community about key health matters.

PPGs can aid the responsiveness of a practice, through provision of constructive feedback that helps the practice team to be proactive in providing services that truly reflect what patients want and need.

PPGs can also bring significant benefits to practices: reducing costs, improving services, allowing resources to be used more efficiently and developing mutually supportive networks outside of individual appointments. They are doing this through, for example, undertaking fundraising to buy medical equipment or improve local amenities, or running self-help groups that often reduce the need for GP or hospital visits among those with long term conditions.

3. Can you give some examples of where PPGs have made a real difference to the way services are provided?

There is clear evidence of PPGs making real, constructive changes to the way in which services are provided at general practice level, as well as supporting existing services and helping to set up new ones. Some examples include:

Establishing a scheme to help transport elderly and disabled patients to and from the practice

Helping to introduce counselling and bereavement support services

Supporting provision of information services on general health and well-being, as well as wider issues impacting the local community, such as fuel poverty

Working with the practice to set up health education initiatives around obesity, coping with long term conditions, seasonal health issues and the like

Undertaking monitoring of services through patient polling, and feeding back to the practice

Supporting the smooth running of seasonal flu clinics

4. What sort of time investment is needed from the practice team in setting up and running a PPG?

The support of the Practice Manager and clinicians within the practice is vital in ensuring PPGs are successful, however this needn’t mean a large strain on their time. In general, the Practice Manager will set up the PPG, but it will then be run by patients, and the Practice Manager and one or more GP from within the practice will attend the meetings.

Download our step by step guide to setting up a PPG here

5. What level of financial investment is needed to set up and run a PPG, and where does this funding come from?

All PPGs are different. The amount of funding needed will vary depending on the size of the PPG, and the types of issues they are aiming to address. Many PPGs very successfully run fundraising events, such as book sales, raffles and the like, to raise money to support their activities.

6. What role can PPGs play in supporting GP’s wider objectives, around commissioning for example? What other benefits do they offer?

There are clear benefits for practices in having PPGs up and running. Successful commissioning initiatives rely on feedback from patients. PPGs are also ideal sounding boards for any service redesign being considered by the practice, and can provide additional insight to the annual GP Patient Survey.