The traditional doctor to patient relationship is being turned on its head.
Just a few decades ago, the main contact many patients had with their GP was discussing health problems during an appointment. However that is changing thanks to patient participation groups.
The first in the UK was born in 1972. Today, patients at Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group practices and across Lincolnshire are shaping how their GP surgeries are run by joining patient participation groups.
Members suggest ways their local GP practices can improve, promote them in the community and even volunteer to help patients access them.
Peter Crosby is a founding member of the patient participation group for Portland Medical Practice in Lincoln.
He has helped chair the PPG since it began in 2008 before taking time out between July and October this year for two serious operations and re-joining as a normal committee member. Mr Crosby said:
We do debate serious issues and come out with serious answers, but it is a nice atmosphere and we enjoy it.
It definitely has grown in that we have managed to maintain a membership on the committee of at least 14 to 15 people. It has never gone below 10.
Around 400 people are members of the Portland Medical Practice PPG – all with different ages and backgrounds.
Its committee group holds monthly meetings attended by practice staff and Sunil Hindocha, GP partner and Lincolnshire West CCG Chief Clinical Officer.
It has been so successful; its committee members have been asked to give talks on setting up PPGs elsewhere.
Mr Crosby said:
However the PPG was originally founded to simply help Portland Medical Practice present a “friendlier face” to patients.
There is a certain amount of satisfaction in that we know that what we have done has been appreciated by the practice, and the practice has followed what we suggested.
Sunil Hindocha, GP partner at the practice and Chief Clinical Officer at Lincolnshire West CCG, said:
The Patient Participation Group has been a fantastic source of feedback and advice for Portland Medical Practice.
Sitting together around a table for these meetings is an invaluable chance to talk about patients’ views of the practice and the service it provides, and any suggestions for change.
The PPG members also form a fantastic channel of extra communication with our patients, by spreading awareness and carrying out the annual patient survey.
Joining a PPG is a brilliant way to support your GP practice and have a say on healthcare in your area.
Alan Monighan is chair of Ingham Practice Patient Group, which meets four times a year. He said:
I became a member to express my thanks and give support to an organisation without which, I and many other people, would be in a significantly different state of health.
My sincere belief, which I know is shared by all of the PPG members, is that we actually make a positive contribution to the overall efficiency and wellbeing of the practice and its patients.
We also wish to express our appreciation of the excellent work of not only the clinical team members, together with the pharmacists, but also the administrative support staff.
The PPG movement is still growing.
Since April it has been a contractual requirement for all English practices to form a Patient Participation Group over the course of 2016.
However recruiting more people is now a top priority for PPGs like Ingham Practice Patient Group, Mr Monighan said.
This is not because of any concerns regarding the current age categories or gender mix of the PPG, but, rather, the relatively low number of younger patients who have not volunteered due to other social, domestic or occupational commitments.
This, of course, is a problem faced by virtually the whole of the voluntary sector and I don’t pretend to know the solution.
The answer to the question may simply be to keep on trying; and occasionally try to cajole someone when you are in the village shop.
What is a PPG?
A Patient Participation Group is made up of patients who meet to help their local GP practice keep moving forward.
They hold regular meetings which GPs and practice staff also attend, and record any issues raised and actions needed.
PPG members can advise their surgery and suggest ideas to improve the patient experience voice their views on healthcare and help reach more of the community.
Topics can include anything from wider health issues for the area to the number of missed appointments at a GP surgery.
PPG members can also help run patient-led volunteer services, such as voluntary driver schemes, which see people giving their time to drive frail patients to and from appointments.
If you would like to know more information about PPG, please contact us, or speak to your GP practice.