Dr Nick Tupper blog: Giving a voice to our practices’ patients

IMG_5275Are you interested in playing a part in helping to develop the services provided at your local surgery?

GP practices are situated at the heart of Doncaster’s communities and they are keen to involve patients in helping to make their services even better.

Make enquiries at the surgery you are registered at and you will probably find they have a patient participation group (PPG), which acts as the key link between you the patient and the doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff who work there.

PPGs have an important role to play as they help ensure that patients and carers can influence the local health services they need and rely on.

PPGs provide an opportunity for the patients’ voices to be heard and responded to, meeting regularly with staff at the practice to offer suggestions on how improvements can be made.

Their role is to act as ‘critical friends’ rather than as a complaints forum, offering practical ideas on topics that patients are interested in, such as waiting areas, waiting times and general communication issues. PPGs provide feedback to staff on how the practice is working from the patient’s perspective, so improvements can be made if necessary.

Changes prompted by local PPGs include practices varying their opening times, adaptations to seating to help those with disabilities, advice on privacy and dignity issues and changes to general housekeeping to ensure the surgery is kept spic and span.

Some PPGs go even further by providing information to patients and the local community, together with health promotion activities such as health fairs and supporting groups that have a particular interest in specific health conditions. They often use social media sites, such as facebook and twitter, as a way of keeping in touch with patients.

My practice – Kingthorne Surgery, on Thorne Road, Doncaster – has an active patient participation group and one suggestion the members came up with was to invite patients aged over 45 who have not had a health check for more than five years to book to have one. Several came in for a check as a result and it also prompted other patients to ask for one as well.

NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – the organisation I chair – is supporting the development of the practice-based groups by running a PPG network across Doncaster. This is an opportunity for representatives from each practice PPG to share ideas, discuss latest updates to NHS services and hear about the work that is being done to improve healthcare in the area, often explained by visiting speakers.

The comments the CCG receives from the network is really useful as part of our role of gathering patient experience feedback and taking it into account when organising local health services.

So why not find out more about becoming a member of your practice’s patient participation group? Ask a member of staff for further details and the meeting dates.

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