Patient Participation Groups’ experiences of operating remotely during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered profound and rapid changes in general practice. Within weeks of the outbreak in England, the proportion of face-to-face GP consultations shifted from 70% to 23%. Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) play a crucial role in primary care as a key link between patients and general practice. During this period, they too, have experienced a shift in how, when and where they have been able to meet.

The National Association for Patient Participation wished to learn more about its members’ experience of operating digitally during the pandemic, including what worked, and what other PPGs and practices could learn from this. As such, we asked our members for their feedback. Between 9 October and 9 November 2020 we received replies from more than 20 PPGs across England.

Here is what we found:

All the respondents (with the exception of one) had moved their PPG meetings online. For a number of PPGs, their enthusiasm in moving their regular meetings online was matched by the practice staff.

“We have been having regular PPG meetings via Zoom at our normal frequency throughout this period. We continue to have GP and practice manager representation. No persuasion was needed!”

A PPG in the West Midlands.

Some PPGs reflected on the popularity and quality of their meetings. This varied from online meetings proving easier to attend than face to face meetings, being able to move forward with administrative changes, and it being easier to access and involve practice staff.

“Zoom meetings have proved to be popular because members do not have to turn out at night but we can meet from the comfort of home. People say they can hear better (we are quite an elderly group!) and everyone gets a chance to speak.”

A PPG in London

Above all, the report highlighted the crucial role PPGs are playing throughout the pandemic:

‘The Covid crisis and online consultations have meant that patients have felt more distanced from clinicians at a time of maximum anxiety about health. This means that it is even more important that the PPGs don’t go into long term abeyance and remain a powerful voice for patients even if it is online.”

A PPG in the South East

The report also highlights the innovative ideas PPGs have implemented to overcome challenges during the pandemic. Members can login and read the full report here. Not yet a Member?  Find out more here.

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