PPG Awareness week: 6 – 13 June 2022 – Your Practice Needs You!

Promoting patient participation to save general practice

The front door to the NHS is buckling and it is up to the nation to support it – not just policy makers, not just medical practitioners, but all of us.
This week is Patient Participation Group Awareness Week and we are highlighting the critical role patients need to play now to empower their communities, uphold general practice and support the NHS.

Promoting patient participation to save general practice

The front door to the NHS is buckling and it is up to the nation to support it – not just policy makers, not just medical practitioners, but all of us.

This week is Patient Participation Group Awareness Week and we are highlighting the critical role patients need to play now to empower their communities, uphold general practice and support the NHS.

The problems facing general practice

It is not new news. We have been battling the pressure facing general practice and the impact this is having on our NHS for the past decade.

We have campaigned the government to inject more funds into general practice, yet the profession is still faced with inadequate funding, receiving only 10% of the budget while dealing with 90% of patient contacts.

The UK population has been steadily growing since 1982 (according to the National Office for Statistics), yet not enough “workforce planning” has been done to keep up with this demand. Our workforce is both ageing and diminishing: according to the BMA almost 50% of GPs want to cut their hours, 21% would like to leave the NHS, fewer than 1% in England are under 30, and 23% are over-55 and approaching retirement.

What is more, a recent survey undertaken by Pulse revealed that the GP partnership model is at risk of collapsing, with 27% of the 442 GP partners saying they had ‘considered handing their contract back’ at some point over the past 12 months and 41% saying they would ‘consider becoming a salaried GP if offered the right deal’.

In response, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall told Pulse: “The GP partnership model has long been central to NHS general practice. It allows GPs and their teams to innovate in the best interests of their patients and is good value for money for the NHS.

“The Government must ‘pull out all the stops’ to achieve its targets of 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 additional practice staff by 2024.”

Patient engagement as part of the solution

What role do we as patients play in this crisis? With public satisfaction regarding GP services hitting an all-time low, according to a recent British Social Attitudes survey, we need to use the skills we have as a society to support general practice and improve the services they provide to our communities.

Two years of lock-down and an enduring health pandemic saw that we could rapidly respond, support and uphold our health system in some of the most innovative and inspiring ways.

For example, Red House Surgery Patient Participation Group provided more than 4,000 hours of support, helping vaccinate more than 30,000 patients; Helsby and Elton PPG got involved at their local schools to spread messages about health and wellbeing; and Shopwick PPG, which run established speaker events on topics such as anxiety, depression, back pain, diabetes and nutrition, converted to online events to educate their community on Covid and mental wellbeing. What is more, PPGs around the nation were critical in supporting their practices go virtual and keeping their communities engaged and informed.

Ultimately patient engagement improves awareness and education of health-related issues in the community, alleviates pressure on the system and increases quality of care. This has been proven time and again.

For more than 40 year’s N.A.P.P has facilitated and fostered engagement through Patient Participation Groups, seeing first-hand the collective impact that we can make on local, regional and national decision making. Numerous studies have been carried out, identifying how patient engagement can inform and enhance service delivery and governance. And most recently, the examples of comradeship and endurance that were upheld during the pandemic remind us that we must stay involved if we are to save the system.

Now is the time to act

The NHS is ours, let’s own it. If we don’t act now the burden on general practice could see the ageing workforce increasingly turn to early retirement to avoid burn-out. With no one to replace them, it will leave the NHS without the cornerstone upon which it was built, further reducing accessibility to appointments for hundreds of thousands of patients.

By joining a Patient Participation Group you can do your part to save a general practice that is still accessible to all. You will provide first-hand support by acting as a voice and an educator within your community, you will alleviate pressure on your practice and shape the primary care services that will hopefully serve you and your family for generations to come.

Find out how to get involved in a Patient Participation Group here.

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