Patient participation is a virtue

Patient participation group chair Janice Downing on why more people should consider joining their local PPG

A pre-pandemic activity hosted by one of the patient participation groups at Forest Primary Care Centre
A pre-pandemic activity hosted by one of the patient participation groups at Forest Primary Care Centre

Every doctor’s surgery has a patient participation group (PPG), but what are they?

I am the chair of Boundary House and Forest Road surgery PPGs. A PPG is a group of patients, carers, GPs and staff who meet to discuss issues and experiences with the aim of improving services for the whole of the practice population.

Patients can become more involved and make suggestions about the healthcare services they receive. A good example of this is blood tests; they are now being done at our surgery instead of at North Middlesex Hospital.

The PPGs have worked closely with the hospital’s senior managers, head pharmacist and senior nurses to improve patient experience on discharge from hospital, and to improve access to the hospital pharmacy. Even the car parking system has been improved!

Patients and GP staff work as a team to review and improve practice systems and procedures. This way, PPG members gain so much insight into how the practice works and can understand the reasons behind the systems, reducing their stress and frustration.

We also conduct annual patient surveys. Topics covered include appointment systems, telephone access, the patient group, and reception staff. This has resulted in many changes to the appointment system, the purchase of a new and improved telephone system, PPG members attending staff meetings, and changing the time of our meetings so that mums who have to do the school run can attend.

Recently, an elderly PPG member was upset when she was charged for a home delivery of her repeat medication. She could no longer walk to Boots. After discussion with the PPG, Boots changed their policy and now charge for home delivery on a case-by-case basis. A real coup for patient power!

Members of the PPG were on the interview panel when the practice was recently recruiting for a new GP. An actor played the part of the patient and the interviewees had to conduct a mock consultation in front of the PPG panel. This gave great insight to the members as to which candidate they preferred. It was great fun and the patients felt privileged to help choose their new GP!

PPGs are open to every patient on the GP practice list. Everyone is encouraged and is welcome to join – there are no other membership requirements.

You will get the opportunity to be more involved with the practice, to make improvements, learn about your practice and the NHS, medical tests and procedures, and gain a better understanding of disease management. I recently asked our members to write a sentence about their experience of being a member of the PPG – the most used word was ‘knowledge’.

At Boundary House Surgery and Forest Road Surgery PPGs we have presented education events on healthy eating, diabetes management, help and advice for carers, men’s health, cervical screening, and have supported social prescribing by hosting quizzes, exercise classes for over 65s, participated in local events in Jubilee Park, and even joined a parade at Edmonton Carnival!

We also publish quarterly newsletters, keeping patients informed of current health information and guidelines and list helpful telephone numbers.

So make new friends, gain knowledge, and help to improve your GP practice by joining your surgery’s patient participation group. You will be most welcome!

For more information contact your GP practice directly or, for general advice, contact Janice:
Email [email protected]