Good practice – Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund

Finding innovative ways to involve the public in primary care – Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund


The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund seeks to improve access to general practice. Examples from across England focus on patient led engagement groups, early participation, creative communication and raising awareness. Outcomes include increases in volunteering rates, improved clinical awareness of participation, better voluntary sector relationships and improved uptake of services.


In October 2013, the Prime Minister announced a £50 million Challenge Fund to help improve access to general practice. The Challenge Fund was designed to test innovative ways of providing primary care services. 20 pilot sites were selected across the country; covering 1,100 general practices and 7.5 million patients.

Overview of public involvement activity

Pilot sites engaged patients in a range of ways with a common focus on:

Patient-led engagement groups

Setting up or using patient participation groups (PPG) to develop a direct channel of communication between patients and the site. This generated a better understanding of patient population needs, as well as providing accountability.

Early patient involvement

Patients were involved in the early stages of the project to ensure that services met patient needs.

Creative communication channels

A diverse range of media was used to raise the profile of pilot activities amongst local people, increase awareness and provide timely patient feedback.

Regular contact

Sites gave frequent updates on activities to maintain awareness of service changes.

Who carried out the activity? 

The engagement activity was led by the pilot sites that had received funding.

Some sites appointed an engagement lead on the project team to lead on the patient involvement. One site worked with NHS Improving Quality to support its Patient Board and also recruited a social media officer to support this element of involvement. One site worked closely with the local authority and council for voluntary services to reach a more diverse range of patients.

What difference has the activity made?

A range of outcomes was identified for each pilot site, including: Services were designed to meet the needs of patients for example timing, location, publicity, appointment systems.

  • There was a good uptake of new services.
  • Patients reported feeling valued through being involved.
  • Patients volunteered to help others with signposting to/navigating services, including non-medical.
  • One site believes that clinicians have benefitted from learning about patient experiences of primary care and that this is leading to service improvements at practices.

Voluntary sector partners have been positive about their involvement.

What, if anything, would you have done differently?

Key learning was:

Fast pace of change

Engaging with patients takes time; it is important to factor engagement into pilot delivery timetables.

Acting on feedback

Delivery plans need to be flexible enough to take on board what is learnt from engagement activities.

Engaging a mix of patients

Patient engagement needs to be as inclusive as possible to ensure that patients views are representative of the whole patient population of each pilot site.

Who is the contact for more information?