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.