Supporting patient participation groups

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Greenwich undertook research to understand how Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) operate and the challenges they face, following an audit of GP websites where they found that some websites provide any information about PPGs and of those that did, some didn’t provide an explanation of PPGs.  They spoke to practice staff and lead members/chairs of PPGs in 20 out of the 33 GP practices in Greenwich.

While some Greenwich PPGs are made up of active groups of patients, regularly in dialogue with GPs and practice staff on service developments, many more are little more than a mailing list with patients in receipt of an occasional update. These are sometimes called ‘virtual’ PPGs. Many practices struggled to keep PPGs running during Covid-19, but Healthwatch Greenwich did not always find evidence that PPGs were active before this.

Recruitment of PPG members is largely passive using posters in practice waiting areas and (limited) information on websites. As a result, nearly all PPGs struggle with recruitment. Most active PPGs are made up of a handful of members – many of whom are elderly or retired. Healthwatch Greenwich did not find many examples of PPGs with members that reflect the patient population.

Finding members with appropriate skills and good understanding of the role and remit of PPGs can be a problem. Some practices told us that a proportion of PPG members were reluctant to engage with issues outside of their personal health concerns and used PPG meetings to continually raise their own personal health needs. Others told us that a minority of PPG members inappropriately try to use PPG meetings and structures to lobby for their broader political views.

All practices are very positive about the potential of PPGs, but few have been able to realise these possibilities. Nearly all struggled to identify any examples of how their PPG had enhanced patient experience, service design or delivery. Indeed, several practices felt their PPG offered little value to the practice and simply added to staff workload.

The report contains 3 recommendations about better support to develop PPGs, recruiting members that reflect the local population and restarting PPG meetings online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report doesn’t include a response from the providers.

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General details

Report title 
Supporting patient participation groups
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Greenwich
Date of publication 
Wednesday, 30 September, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Friday, 1 May, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Tuesday, 30 June, 2020
Type of report 
Key themes 
Information providing
Public involvement
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.