Patients hold key to making services better

To mark Patient Participation Group Awareness Week, NHS England’s Director of Patient and Public Voice and Insight explains why they are vital to an NHS putting patients at the heart of decisions.

Patients and the public play a key role in the development of NHS services – without their opinions, ideas and feedback how can we be confident services are meeting people’s health and care needs?

Patient Participation Groups are a valuable platform for patients to work together with staff and doctors in their local GP practice. They give people an opportunity to share their experiences of being a patient at the practice and to put forward their perspective on what works well and how improvements can be made.

PPGs help to pull in people’s opinions and facilitate discussions between practices and their patients – ultimately making services better by shaping them to patients’ needs.

These groups connect GPs practices, and some pharmacy and dental services, with their communities bringing people together with a common goal. That’s why in this PPG Awareness Week I want to encourage patients, who may have a bit of time to spare, to find out more about their PPG and what it does.

Anyone can get involved in their practice PPG; there are no formal skills or qualifications needed. You just need to be willing to volunteer your time to make a positive difference to your practice for people who use its services.

The National Association for Patient Participation (N.A.P.P) has some handy tips if you want to get involved in your practice PPG.

PPGs don’t only have benefits for patients; they also provide a valuable source of information for GPs and their practice staff. They act as critical friends, making key contributions to service improvement and professionals’ understanding of their community.

But how do GPs make the most of their PPG and make sure it is working effectively?

A new resource, commissioned by NHS England and developed by N.A.P.P, helps GPs do just this. ‘Building better participation’ provides information and guidance on how to establish a PPG, work effectively with patients and influence healthcare decisions outside of the GP practice.  The resource will help all PPGs – whether they are long-standing or recently formed to reflect on what they do. It is a useful tool for GP practices and CCGs seeking to support effective PPGs.

So, PPGs benefit patients and GP practices, but what else do they do?

They help to shape the broader healthcare system by providing user-experience and insight to those who commission primary care services, whether in NHS England or a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Commissioners should be using the knowledge and expertise of PPGs when planning and developing primary care services for communities. This is something highlighted to commissioners in the Framework for patient and public participation in primary care commissioning so that the views and insight of PPGs are taken into account.

This PPG Awareness Week let’s celebrate the work that PPGs do and the contribution they make to GP, dental and optician services across England. Please take this opportunity to find out more about how you could get involved at your GP practice or make it more effective.

Anu Singh

Anu is Director of Patient & Public Participation and Insight at NHS England. She takes the lead for NHS England in ensuring that the voice of patients, service users, carers and the public is at the heart of the way NHS England works. Central to implementing the Five Year Forward View vision, she is responsible for taking forward national programmes of work that not only embed patient and public voice, feedback and insight in the NHS commissioning system, but also actively promote patient-centred care and approaches to care that make the most of community and patient participation.

Anu has a long history of leading Personalisation, empowerment, and placing communities at the heart of decision making. Anu was previously Head of Business Improvement for Staffordshire County Council where she was responsible for the commissioning of mental health, social care, community safety and education. For 12 years prior to that she was Head of Development and Improvement at the London Borough of Harrow and at Birmingham City Council, taking the lead on Place Shaping, Localisation of services, Community Empowerment and Business Transformation.

Anu is passionate about the integration of public services around the customer. She has commissioned the largest integrated Health and Social Care Trust in the country, and is also a Non-Executive Director and Quality Chair of Whittington Hospital Integrated Care Trust.


  1. Stephen W Bates says:

    The concept that Patients are key to improving health care requires that patients are consulted, not just for their own care and treatment, but also in the big picture, helping to formulate policy and advising on significant changes. All well and good except that the NHS is slowly withdrawing from consulting with patients. I chair a PPG and we have had only one request to consult on a change during the time I have been a member. Yes there have been big meetings but what is the point of every surgery having a PPG if the CCG or NHS does not want to consult PPGs. It seems to me that although the NHS claims that the views of patients and the public are important, the NHS really views us as a nuisance and something to be kept at arm’s length except when they want us. Large meetings are not ‘consultations’ as time is limited and the CCG will hear only a few views, not necessarily the views of those less able to express themselves in large groups. Tell the CCGs that they must consult!

  2. Michael Vidal says:

    A very interesting article. It is a pity that NHS England does not always practice what it preaches. One example is over the PMS review as I said at a Health Overview Scrutiny Meeting in March to the Head of Primary Care at NHS England (London)NHS England has left itself open to challenge over this. The reason as far as I am aware there was no engagement wiht patients or the public during the review itself.

    This is not the only example I can think of where there has been little or no effective engagement. I am happy to meet and discuss the issue.

  3. Pearl baker says:

    Why did you fail to leave my comment for others to View?

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Pearl,

      Thank you for you comments.

      Before coments are published we pre-moderate comments to make sure they meet our moderation policy.

      This is not about censoring your views. The aim is to ensure that comments relate to the particular subject being discussed. Moderation will not be used to suppress legitimate, reasoned discussion.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

      • Kassander says:

        ”NHS England says:”
        Oh does ‘it’.
        This is the faceless bureaucracy that has hijacked the People’s NHS for its own ends.
        It is the same top down rule that has shifted oversight and control of some£70 000 000 000 (£70 bn) per annum of our NHS-E money into cabals of Private contractors called CCGs. Cabals which are now having to be restrained by the Sect’y of State and NHS-E from diverting contracts from the already hard pressed NHS Hospitals into what may arguably be their own areas of ‘interest” .
        Ms A Singh was appointed to her present post to loud acclaim from those who had followed her successful career of opening up Public institutions to the Public. One can but hope that she has not now fallen prey to the Peter Principle – tho’ her REFUSAL to allow a direct eMail address to her desk to be published is symptomatic of her abandoning the ship of true P&P Involvement.
        Sic Transit Gloria of yet another glittering career?
        One can but hope that this is a brief pause before she (Ms Singh) galvanizes her very many supporters amongst P&P and progresses in that which may be her crowning achievement – the democratization of the People’s NHS.
        Fair wind, Ms Singh.

      • Michael Vidal says:

        I note this but the impression of censoring is given when the moderation takes as has happened to me weeks instead of hours.

        • Kassander says:

          @ Michael Vidal 13/6/16 – 10.00hrs
          Queuing is good for P&P, it instils a sense of being a supplicant into the hoi polloi. And creates discipline in the ranks.
          Of course, if sir would care to produce credentials proving that he is from the ruling elite, we’ll give him his own column to spout his hierarchical perceptions of how (their) NHS should be run and governed.

          • Michael Vidal says:

            Kassander in your post 1.39 on 14 June you clearly missed the point of what I was saying. My point was that the impression can be given that NHS England are censoring the views of people who post when they take weeks for posts to go up. I was not saying anything about queuing.


            Michael Vidal

  4. Pearl baker says:

    I have NOT read this,other than to say Patients and Carers feedback is vital if progress is to me made regarding the Care of both groups, however the standard reply is never encouraging. We don’t concern ourselves with complaints or concerns, take them to the relevant Complaints Department or the Ombudsman, this is unacceptable, based on the enormous evidence i send you (confirming nothing is working in my area),so what is the point? Look Listen and Learn from an ‘expert by experience’ even the CQC have accepted their Inspection process of those subject to Section 117 via the CCGs the GPs and Hospitals is NOT ‘picking up’ that ‘Statutory Guidance’ is being ignored, and ‘vulnerable’ patients are being discharged from ‘Care Planning’ now i have the evidence and the CQC agree! is it NOT about time you ‘woke’ up and took notice.

  5. kevin riley says:

    The Health Select Committee is spending many hours listening to “evidence” from various very highly paid (by the taxpayer) individuals – none of whom have any power whatsoever to secure improvements in the way patients are treated in the NHS since the removal of the NHS from democratic control.

    This issue (Agenda item) is therefore perfectly straightforward.

    The taxpayer is paying literally millions of pounds to individuals employed by NHS England and it’s every increasing and very expensive off shoots – none of whom can actually guarantee any improvement to patient outcomes since the removal of the NHS from Democratic control.

    The above can only recommend and/or advise the 165 legally independent NHS Foundation Trusts but can do nothing if those legally independent bodies choose to ignore that recommendation or advise..

    Yet at the same time as the above the Public Accounts Committee has recently identified an acute shortage of nurses and doctors and this three years after Robert Francis identified this as being the main cause of “preventable” deaths in NHS Hospitals.

    Therefore despite the millions of pounds tax payers money (out of the annual NHS Budget) spent on these highly paid civil servants employed in NHS England and its numerous (and ever increasing) subsidiaries and also those employed in the Department of Heath (who also have no executive control over how the legally independent NHS Foundation trusts behave) .


    The above of itself should be sufficient to enable to identify the issues to be investigated .

    Given that the Public Accounts Select |Committee has recently published a comprehensive report identifying an acute shortage of nurses and doctors in NHS Hospitals – it would be sensible for the issue to be considered by a joint meeting of both Select Committees.

    List of witnesses to follow.

    Kevin S. Riley Solicitor

  6. Chris Reid says:

    Proper funding makes patients experiences better not PPGs.
    Sorry to spoil your nice little number Anu. but the NHS is being run into the ground and NHS England is no friend of the NHS.

  7. Francesco Palma says:

    Patients hold the key to making services better, that being the case NHS Citizen was introduced in 2013 to discuss with NHS England via the Gather space to the NHS Citizen Assembly issues that could be discuss make services better, yet the decision to halt the Gather space where those discussions first take place was halted unilaterally by NHS England last month. NHS England do not have a long track record of working with patients collaboratively,yet feel able to put forward advice how this should be done, what comes to mind is People that live in glasshouses.

    • Kassander says:

      @ ​Francesco Palma says: 8 June, 2016 at 8:24 am

      As someone who watched as a registered membership of approaching 3 000 was reduced to a mere 3 or 4 contributors by the inability of the, external to NHS-E, operators of Gather to:
      * Generate any feeling of contributors being part of a team working co-operatively to achieve the stated aims of the Forum, rather than bothersome posters obstructing an already constructed grand plan;
      * Answer even the simplest enquiry about any legitimate issues;
      * Demonstrate any of the generic skills needed to facilitate an online discussion forum dealing with matters of great national concern to 50 000 000 Citizens;
      * Hold together a team of Moderators, other than by drafting in an ever changing group of ”interns”, and whoever seemed to have a spare hour or two.

      Under these circumstances, it must be asked: ”Just what was ‘our’ £1 000 000+ this project cost, spent on?”
      * The program used for the online discussion was one from an archive;
      * Systems designed to chose which issues would be brought before the NHS-E Board fell apart on camera and had to be substituted by bits of paper stuck on a white-board in a disused classroom;
      * The general principle that NHS-E meetings would be ”Meetings held in Public” was violated;
      ​* The generic NHS-E principle of ​ ”don’t incite hatred on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality ..” was grossly violated, and when challenged, that challenge was not only rejected, but the violation repeated.

      At the moment most of the online proceedings are preserved, tho’ it is evident that some post hoc ‘editing’ is happening.
      It is to be expected that this will be halted with immediate effect, and control of the site returned to NHS-E for preservation and investigation.
      A published undertaking that this has happened, or will now happen, will be welcomed.

  8. Kassander says:

    PPGs are to Patients and the Public (P&P) what House Employee Committees are to Trades Unions, either toothless hounds or worse, mutts that will bite their handler.
    The NAPP and CCGs are close allies and control the role of PPGs in their ability to exert any but the most marginal of influences on the distribution of the £70 000 000 000 / year (£70 bn) now handled by the privatised CCGs on behalf of NHS-E [ NHS England]
    [CCGs are run by GPs who are Private contractors to NHS-E.]
    By CCGs designating PPGs as the prefered conduit of communication with P&P, other P&P organisations, arguably more independent and democratically constituted, may be legitimately excluded from such forums.
    CCG ‘Lay’ NEDs, responsible for ”representing” the views of P&P at Board level, are selected, appointed and remunerated by their CCG.
    And so the stainless steel sphere of PPI [Patient and Public Involvement] is snapped shut.
    Cross CCG area formal and recognised PPG member collaboration, and meetings are firmly controlled and supervised by the CCG, and in many cases the PPGs are Balkanised. Dissenting P&P voices may find themselves disciplined, excluded, dropped from their PPG, or even required to leave their GP practice.
    When, and only when, this iron grip is broken, and some element of democratic involvement in policy and practice determination is introduced, will there be other than faux PPI.
    Ms Singh’s article shows little sign that this is on her agenda.