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What is a Patient Participation Group (PPG)?

Kirsty Marrs |29, April, 2022

Do you know what a Patient Participation Group (PPG) is and what they do? Did you know that every GP practice must have one?

This doesn’t just apply to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, but the whole of England too! It might surprise you to know that the first PPG was started in 1972 by GPs and from 1 April 2015, it became a formal requirement in the GP Contract.
Many people have heard the phrase ‘patient participation group’ but aren’t sure what goes on behind the scenes – with N.A.P.Ps PPG awareness week coming up in June it’s perfect time to share all.

A PPG is traditionally a collection of patients at a surgery who have an interest in the services provided and their unique partnership with their practice enables them to improve common understanding and help identify solutions to meet patients’ needs.
PPGs can influence the quality of care in the practice and local community, aiming to improve the overall patient experience. They can identify changes, through patient feedback, that the practice may not have considered which may allow scarce resources to be used more effectively, to reduce costs and improve services.

They can:
• Act as ‘critical friend’ to provide a patients’ perspective, advising on and providing insight into the responsiveness and quality of services, and ensuring that the plans and activities respond to patients’ needs and priorities.
• Provide practical support to practice teams e.g. conducting and analysing patient surveys and feedback, organising health awareness and health literacy events.
• Encouraging patients to take greater responsibility for and gain confidence in managing their own and their family’s health, for example people with long term and/ or multiple health conditions.
• Help other patients make informed decisions on their care, by sign posting to services
• Keep the patient population in the loop with practice news and wider issues such as changes in the NHS.

The PPG are active volunteer patients, which should be a representative sample of the practice population, and should have a structure that allows it to reach the broadest cross section of the patient population.

It can often be a challenge to interact with patients due to their busy lives, particularly young families and working professionals, but practices should demonstrate they have made an effort to engage with any underrepresented and seldom heard groups, including patients with mental health conditions or groups with protected characteristics as identified in the Equality Act 2010. Groups often meet face to face with practice staff at mutually agreed intervals, but ‘Virtual PPGs’ can operate alongside ‘real’ groups to enable dialogue with the whole patient population through email, online surveys and social media enabling a wider cross section of the patients to have their voices heard.

Not only does the PPG work for the patients, it works with the practice, formulating a plan together based on what the practice expect from the PPG, which areas to focus on e.g. more patients using online appointment systems, and even devising fundraising goals together, for new equipment for the surgery.

Do you have ideas on how to improve your local practice? Are you interested to know what is discussed to help with the provision of services at your GP?

Anyone is welcome to join their PPG, your practice probably has material in the waiting room or on their website, but you can ring the surgery to ask your practice manager for the details on how to join too.

Are you already a member of your PPG?

Fantastic! It is great that you are championing the health of yourself and others around you. EPIC are interested to know how technology could help to support your PPG, by using websites and devices alongside what you do already. Some ideas that we have seen been used by some PPGs, or have thought about are:
• Online fundraising
• Social media for recruitment of new members and keeping patients in the loop
• Using care opinion (add link) to gather more patient feedback
• Using Skype for PPG meetings so more people can attend, even if they have a young family or mobility issues.
• Support for the PPG to be able to show others in the waiting room how to use the online services that the GP offers.

If you would like to share your thoughts, we would love to hear from you at epic@plymouth.ac.uk, even if you have an aim that you would love to work on but don’t know how.

This write up would have not been possible without the brilliant resources of N.A.P.P. and The Patients Association.