Management in Practice caught up with Kate Starkey, practice manager of Winchcombe Medical Centre in Gloucestershire to explain the benefits of creating a Patient Participation Group.
What your practice is doing to involve patients?
Winchcombe Medical Centre established it’s PPG in 2010. Since then we’ve analysed patient feedback via a dedicated e-mail address and comments box and analysed both national patient surveys and the surveys that we’ve completed independently in house. As a result of this we’ve employed a Nurse Practitioner to help improve access for minor illness and we’ve installed a privacy screen to improve confidentiality at the reception desk.
Has it increased work load for admin staff/receptionists/GPs?
Initially there was some work involved mainly for the Practice Manager in the set up of the group. GPs take it in turns to attend each two monthly meetings as well as the PM.
Over time the group has become more independent and actually taken work away from the Practice staff as they have explored informal feedback that may have led to a complaint and helped with patient education and disease prevention by arranging health awareness events looking at the menopause, low grade mental health problems, men’s health and healthy living. We also have an up and coming Carers Awareness evening scheduled.
Do many patients want to participate?
Surprisingly yes. The main group consists of about 12 patients and our virtual group has an additional 35. It’s been such an important mechanism for capturing themes in patient grumbles that alone may have led to individual complaints.
The PPG never looks at specific incidents of a clinical nature, more the everyday struggles of general practice such as confidentiality, customer service and access.
What are the benefits of patient participation?
The benefits in Winchcombe have been significant. Our patient population feels empowered to be heard and even if we don’t act on all the feedback that we receive if it’s just not practicable or financially possible, patients get a thorough response and are happy that an independent organisation can act as their advocate.
The PPG have also been a really useful tool for analysing patient opinion on a wider level, feeding back to initially the PCT and now the CCG on what services they would like to see improved locally in secondary care and in the community.
And to finish, what’s your area is like?
Winchcombe is a market town and the surgery serves a population of 7,000. Many of its residents live in rural villages and are elderly and isolated. Levels of chronic disease are high as is demand for care.
The surgery is proud to have developed and maintain such a close bond with its Patient Participation Group and the Corkill award for PPG of the year 2013 (awarded by the National Association of Patient Participation) will only strengthen the relationship the group and Practice staff have worked so hard to establish.