PPGs have, for some time, been a key formal mechanism for gathering feedback into general practice; since 2015 the GP contract has included a requirement to have a PPG. However, there are no prescriptive requirements on how to run one and no reporting requirements beyond confirmation through the e-declaration that a group is in place.
The patient perspective
Consequently, not all PPGs are created equal, and thought should be given to maximising the usefulness of a PPG for both patients and practice. A well-functioning PPG is a valuable critical friend to the practice, advising on the patient perspective and providing insights into the responsiveness and quality of services. It can also have a role in encouraging patients to take greater responsibility for their own and their family’s health, as well as organising health promotion events and regular communication with the patient population.
The PPG should be developed in the most appropriate way to ensure regular engagement with a representative sample of the practice population and it should have a structure that allows it to reach the broadest cross-section of the patient population. This should include the involvement of carers of registered patients who, themselves, may not be registered patients of the practice.
Practice engagement with the PPG will need to include obtaining patient feedback and, where the practice and PPG agree, acting on suggestions for improvement. Practices should demonstrate that they have made an effort to engage with any under-represented and seldom heard groups, including patients with mental health conditions and/or groups with protected characteristics as identified in the Equality Act 2010.
Suggested sources of feedback
Practices should aim to regularly review feedback with their PPG and wider registered population to consider areas for improvement. Suggested sources of feedback to review include patient and carer priorities and issues, themes from complaints and suggestions, planned practice changes, Care Quality Commission (CQC) related issues, the GP patient survey, the Friends and Family Test and views from local voluntary and community groups, including local Healthwatch.
The PPG may be a virtual or a face-to-face group, or a combination of the two. For some groups it may be helpful to separate out a smaller organising committee from a larger ‘face-to-face’ group and a ’virtual’ group. There should be a PPG constitution, or terms of reference, and a chair and secretary should be appointed. In addition, practices may wish to hold public information or condition support meetings as well as an Annual General Meeting. Each practice should develop an action plan with their PPG on improving practice and acting on feedback gathered from patients and carers.
The Patients Association, in collaboration with NHS England in the South West, has developed a toolkit to assist PPGs which includes resources such as checklists, template posters and ‘easy read’ materials. It is available on request from the Patients Association.