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.