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A patient participation group member discusses the benefits of the GP Patient Survey:
Over the next few weeks, invitations to take part in Europe’s biggest survey will drop through more than two million letterboxes across England.
It’s an easy way for patients to influence improvements in their healthcare as the findings help shape national policy and funding decisions. But that’s only one of the benefits.
The GP Patient Survey (GPPS) asks some of the people from more than 7,000 practices to comment on their experiences of appointments, waiting times, quality of services and more.
As a member of a patient participation group (PPG) trying to make sure patients voices are represented in my local practice, I find it a very useful tool for understanding what’s working well and what can be improved. This gives me a vested interest in asking people to fill it in.
The survey – one of the biggest in the world – is just one of the things that we can use to understand the experience of people registered with the practice. The Friends and Family Test, which is a way to give feedback any time you want to, is an ongoing way for us to listen to the views of people individually and often “in the moment”, soon after their appointment.
The annual GPPS gives us a wider view on a larger scale and can probe some of the topics that might not come up on the FFT.
The information allows us to compare the responses with the previous year and see how our services are doing alongside other practices.
Analysis of statistics can be difficult for lay people who don’t have statistical skills. This is where the GPPS comes into its own. When it was published this year, I sat down with the simple analysis tools they provide on the website and compared our surgery with our sister surgery. Although there were changes made to this year’s survey that made it difficult to do a direct comparison with last year, the first thing I did was to compare our overall standing with last year’s standing. We had slipped down the league tables last year, but I was pleased that we had regained some of the ground we had lost previously.
Next, I looked for big differences between our surgery and our sister surgery. The one that really jumped out at me was in the “Your Health” section.
Although three-quarters of our patients reported that they had agreed a care plan with their healthcare professional to manage their condition, only 4% of them had been offered a written or printed copy of this plan. This contrasted with our sister surgery where only 45% had agreed a plan but, of those, 43% had been given a copy of their plan.
I took this information to our next PPG committee meeting where we were discussing our action plan for the following year.
Although patients hadn’t been telling us they wanted a copy of their treatment plan, we were aware of some patients who had been part of a trial a few years ago where they were given a copy of their plan. They had told us at the time how useful this was so, armed with the new information from the GPPS, we agreed with the practice that we would include in the action plan routinely offering a copy of their care plans to all patients. Once the practice set up the procedure to introduce this, based on the protocol used at the sister surgery, the PPG would also help to tell people about the change.
At the annual general meeting that followed, patients confirmed that they would really value having a copy of their care plan so that they could remind themselves of what actions they should take and when.
The need to routinely share care plans with patients wasn’t something that had been on the radar of the practice or the PPG, but it was clear from the GP Patient Survey that it was something that other surgeries were offering and we weren’t. It was actually very simple to make a change, leading to better outcomes for the patients. Using the GPPS tools made it easy to spot areas in which the surgery and the PPG could make the biggest improvements.
As the survey drops through letterboxes this New Year, I hope that those who receive one will consider taking a few minutes to fill it in. Your views can make a real difference to the people who provide your care and those who represent patients’ interests. We really do listen.