Since April 2015 it has been a GP Contract requirement for all GP practices to have a Patient Participation Group.
Whilst it is a contractual requirement, the PPG should be looked upon as something that delivers a series of benefits to the practice, and its patients.
With the PPG comes the opportunity for GP practices to learn directly from patients how the services offered and quality of delivery are perceived by those who are actually using them. Through the PPG, practices are able to conduct valuable research and collect the views of those who use it.
PPGs allow a two-way flow of communication between patients and practice staff. Many PPGs actively encourage health education initiatives within the practice. As a result, patients take on greater responsibility for their own health and well-being, which can only be a good thing for both them and practice resources. In situations where PPGs are working optimally, services improve both in quality and variety, and patients have a greater understanding of the practice and the people who work within it.
Patients like to feel involved and that their opinions and suggestions count. What better way than to invite them to play a role within the PPG?
Why Careful Structuring of the PPG is Crucial
It is important to develop the Patient Participation Group in such a way that it consists of a representative sample of the practice.
Structure wise, a PPG should reach out to the broadest cross section possible. This means as well as a range of registered patients, the group should include patients' carers together with non-patient representatives such as practice managers. The patient sample will ideally include a range of ages from young to mature; workers; retirees; those with long term conditions and people from a variety of ethnic groups.
Without this diversity, the feedback is never going to be fairly representative.
For practices that have joined together to form at-scale models such as GP federations or super-practices, it is important for the participation groups from each practice to regularly convene and share feedback as a larger group.
Whilst the majority of GP practices have set up their Patient Participation Group, it would seem that not all of them are using it to best advantage. Perhaps take-up is lacking. This may be because the benefits of joining the group are not being effectively communicated, or because it is not straightforward enough to apply to become a member.
How to Boost Participation in your PPG
PPGs are incredibly beneficial. If you'd like to boost participation in your group and really get the most out of it, you should find the following tips useful.
Make it approachable
The way you communicate your PPG to your patients is very important. A friendly tone, a warm welcome and showing how you value the input of your patients are all essential elements in making your group approachable for new members. Whether it's a dedicated page on your website or a poster in your waiting room, be sure to suitably tone it.
Make your aims clear
Without expressing clear aims for your PPG, prospective members will never really understand the benefits of joining and there will therefore be a lack of interest. All PPGs should set out their objectives and benefits of being involved so that patients comprehend precisely what the group does and can see why they should join.
Make it informative
If it's well-run, your PPG will produce a raft of valuable information and interesting insights derived from surveys and polls. Be sure to share these with the rest of the practice on a regular basis; that way even more people will understand the importance of the group. Your GP website, newsletters and social media platforms are great ways to do this.
Make it straightforward
No one has time for anything complicated these days. Unless you make it straightforward for people to join your PPG, you'll probably find sign-ups are lacking. The easiest way for patients to sign up is through your GP website. A well-crafted, welcoming looking page that clearly explains the aims and benefits of the group with a sign-up button linking to a simple form should be just the ticket.
Tree View Designs websites incorporate a dedicated PPG sign-up form for patients to complete online. Once the form is submitted, all the information arrives securely with the practice by email for processing ahead of accepting the application and signing up the patient. The form has a useful set of instructions and information to reassure patients.
Unless you market your PPG, no one will ever know about it. Your GP website is, as we have already said, the ideal place to do this with a dedicated PPG page and link to your sign-up form. You should use the page to share agendas, minutes and survey results too in order to demonstrate that the group is active.
Other ways to bring your PPG to the attention of prospective new members include social media; e-newsletters; news bulletins on your website and of course, in-surgery posters.
One final and useful piece of advice to help you get the most out of your Patient Participation Group is to ensure members are aware of what will be expected of them. You may wish to put together a simple guide to joining a PPG and explain things like the importance as a member of adopting a more rounded view, i.e. considering wider patient interest and not just personal concerns.
If you are looking to promote interest in your Patient Participation Group and feel that you could benefit from an improved online presence that will help you do so, why not talk to Tree View Designs? We offer specialist expertise in GP website design and also have a dedicated service for GP at scale models such as federations and super-practices.