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by Josiane Wadey
4 December 2014

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Celebration of Participation

At St Lawrence Surgery, we often wonder what we would do without our innovative and enthusiastic patient participation group (PPG).

Our PPG group has a strong chair (ex-headteacher background and magistrate) and he has managed to engage a wide range of members from different backgrounds to join him. Each member has an official role to play within the group. For example, marketing, external affairs, entertainment, catering as well as the obvious roles such as chair, treasurer and secretary.

We do have a patient reference panel as well; this is a virtual email group that we contact to ask help when thinking of questions for our annual surveys, what can we do better, etc. 

This is really helpful – and because they do not have to come to the surgery, we find a wide range of patients offering their help and support from carers to people suffering with cancer or mental health problems. Any ideas that are generated from this group are then channelled into our ‘doing’ group, our PPG.

The PPG are a supportive project group, constantly finding more ways of engaging patients by promoting a community feel. They have instigated and sustained a number of projects such as:

St Lawrence Strollers – a weekly walking group for all patients to attend.  Every Tuesday morning between 30 and 40 walkers meet to enjoy either a short walk or a more challenging long walk. 

Some of these walks are off-site and are led by qualified leaders, all of which have a first aid qualification. All leaders have a direct mobile phone access to the surgery for emergency calls. After their walk, they return for a social cup of tea or coffee and some biscuits. Other patients can then join them at this time if they just want to socialise instead of undertaking a walk.

St Lawrence Singing Group – every Thursday evening during term time, a group of 20-30 patients come along to the surgery to sing their hearts out to a very experienced music director (an ex-patient who has relocated) and keyboard musician. There are no auditions for this – they are just singing for fun and the well-documented health benefits.

Pilates and extend classes – every Friday afternoon, a qualified instructor leads two classes, pilates followed by a gentle exercise class for people that are not as able as others.  

Annual Open Days – these are incredibly popular. The PPG and their wider volunteers help to organise annual open day for all patients to attend. There are a wide range of healthcare professionals available, including street doctors and nurses who wander around answering questions on a very informal basis, 999 vehicles offering fire prevention and resuscitation advice, health checks (such as blood pressure, body mass index and blood sugar testing), social services, carers, Action for Deafness, Fore Sight etc. It is equally popular with those who just want to come along to try their luck at the tombola and have a coffee and a cupcake. 

Seasonal activities – the group organise events based on Easter, summer activities and the festive season. Opportunities are planned so that young patients can engage in activities and all patients are able to meet socially with members of staff.  

Annual quiz nights – these attract around 100 people and have been running for the past 12 years, providing an opportunity for both enjoyment and fund-raising. There is always a team from the surgery and this involvement is greatly appreciated by patients.

Monthly educational meetings – on topics such as back pain, anxiety and depression, diabetes, hypertension, getting to know your local hospital etc. PPG members attend and provide refreshments for those attending.

Support for the practice during flu clinics – this saves up to two members of staff, as they help navigate people, collect consent forms, etc.

Christmas meals – the community impact is celebrated at our Christmas dinner – committee members, walkers, singers, additional volunteers and members of staff all attend this increasingly popular event.

We get the message out to patients that we have all of these initiatives to ensure good attendance. It’s a continuing feat, but these are some of the ways we try and keep it fresh and alive.  

Thanks to one of the members on the PPG, we have a Facebook group just for patients. We also have an email distribution to more 2,500 patients and we regularly send out notices. 

The PPG purchased an external noticeboard for outside the surgery, so people do not even have to come into the surgery to see what is going on, and then many internal noticeboards regularly updated. On top of this they produce quarterly newsletters jointly with us to inform patients of staff changes, any new initiatives, forthcoming diary of events etc.

On top of this they have refurbished our waiting room, purchased electric couches, wall-mounted ophthalmoscopes, educational models such as breast and testes with lumps and bumps to educate patients on how to check themselves, and books to lend out to patients on anxiety and depression – among many other really worthwhile purchases that have really enhanced the patient experience. 

The latest initiative is to improve the outside environment for patient and a range of garden sculptures have been purchased