The patient opinion of primary care is our priority. As such, this page is dedicated to informing every person in the United Kingdom on how to shape the future of their care, and in doing so, ensure their opinion is front and centre of the primary health and social care agenda. By taking responsibility for your health, you will contribute to the continuous improvement of services and quality of care for all patients in the United Kingdom. The most effective way of doing this is by setting up or joining a Patient Participation Group.
From April 2016, it has been a contractual requirement for all English practices to form a patient participation group (PPG) during the year ahead and to make reasonable efforts for this to be representative of the practice population. Click here for more info
The first Patient Participation Group was set up by a GP in 1972 and many general practices in England now have a PPG. Generally made up of a group of volunteer patients, the practice manager and one or more of the GPs from the practice, they meet on a regular basis to discuss the services on offer, and how improvements can be made for the benefit of patients and the practice.
The beauty of PPGs is that there is no set way in which they work – the aims and work of each group entirely depends on local needs – but they are have the aim of making sure that their practice puts the patient, and improving health, at the heart of everything it does.
Some groups have, for some years, looked beyond the surgery to the decisions made within the NHS that directly affect their community. Regrettably, most often it has been in reaction to decisions taken without adequate consultation. In many cases, patients and primary care professionals have supported each other in promoting the patient and public interest.
PPGs are about implementing real, positive change in their communities. Patients have long valued the relationship with their GP and general practice. 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 just as a condition or ailment.
PPGs have an increasingly important role to play in helping to give patients a say in the way services are delivered to best meet their needs, and the needs of the local community.
PPGs can help GPs to develop 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. They can also help to reduce costs and improve services by identifying changes that the practice may not have considered, allowing resources to be used more efficiently. What is more, they can develop mutually supportive networks for patients and the practice, outside of individual appointments.
If you’re interested in having a say in the way your local health services are delivered, getting involved with your practice’s PPG is a great place to start.
No training is required to be a member of a PPG – the most important thing is that you are keen and focused on taking positive action to help the practice and the local patient population.
All PPGs are different, but generally involvement tends to include attendance at monthly, bimonthly or quarterly meetings. Some PPG members will choose to take on additional roles that are more time consuming, such as editing/contributing to the PPG newsletter or setting up and running health education or fundraising events, but if you have less time available, this isn’t a requirement.
Not only can joining or starting a group help to shape the delivery of services, many members also find that volunteering is a great way to meet new people and develop your own skills, such as negotiation, dealing with people or even speaking in public.
If you are interested in getting involved, the first step is to find out if your practice already has an established PPG. Below are some simple steps to get you started:
If you are interested in supporting the work of PPGs in your local area, there are several ways you can help. PPGs regularly conduct fundraising initiatives to support their activity and to invest in improvements to their practice. Any financial support would be very welcome. Local charities might fund raise in partnership with PPGs in the area.
In addition, PPGs are always on the lookout for more arms and legs to support their work. If you have a specialist skill you can offer, for example, to help in the development of a practice newsletter, or in the updating of the practice website, the group will no doubt be very keen to hear from you! If you are unsure about which practices have a PPG, the best first port of call is the practice manager.