A national campaign today (2 June 2009) called for an increase in the number of patient participation groups (PPGs) in England.
The campaign is a joint initiative from the National Association of Patient Participation (NAPP), NHS Alliance, British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), and is supported by the Department of Health.
The organisations have joined forces to raise awareness of PPGs as an ideal mechanism for general practices to engage with their local population, to encourage more widespread take-up by practices and patients and to promote an understanding of the benefit of PPGs.
The launch marks an important milestone in the evolution of PPGs, which have been in existence for more than 25 years, and are now present in 41% of practices across England.
Dr Graham Box, chief executive of NAPP, said: "All PPGs have the common aim of helping ensure GP practices remain accountable, dynamic and responsive to their local populations' non-clinical needs.
"Practical, easy to set up and easy to join, PPGs are implementing real, positive change in their communities – from establishing schemes to helping transport the elderly to and from the practice to introducing counselling or bereavement services, and running fundraising events to buy new equipment for the practice.
"We hope to see a significant rise in the number being set-up over the coming months, with the help of the national campaign, as more GPs, practice managers and patients are made aware of their value."
Dr Mike Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, said: "Patient and public engagement is key to realising the ambition of a more localised, more personal and more efficient NHS, as laid out under the world class commissioning programme.
"PPGs are clearly a natural tool to help achieve this – they are already affecting real, practical improvements and can provide both practices and PCTs with vital input from the local population on service provision."
RCGP Chairman Professor Steve Field said: "The relationship between GP and patients is a unique one and an equal one. The RCGP was the first royal college to set up a PPG over 25 years ago – patients' views are now an integral part of every policy we produce and we are a stronger college as a result.
"By having an active patient partnership group in a GP practice, both sides can learn from each other and this brings great benefits all round, not least in helping practices run more effectively and providing services that local people need and want.
"We hope that this important campaign will be a major step forward in helping more practices to set up their own groups and promote patient partnership in its truest sense."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"We have a PPG, which we find valuable. The problem is getting patients interested to join or even engage with the PPG. We get no support whatsoever from our PCT in doing this" – Allan Stewart, Wirral
"The formation of our PPG was one of the best things to happen in the last 10 years or so. Having the group has done three things: changed the culture of the practice from the common paternalistic, 'doctor knows best', approach; given practical guidance on service delivery, service change and many practical, day-to-day, issues; and has helped to legitimise our patient interface protocols (eg, complaints) and also our stance with regard to certain issues with the PCT. These volunteers have been nothing but supportive. Everyone should have one!" – Dave Holmes, Grimsby