Practices are now being contractually required  to set up Patient Participation Groups and undertake an annual Patients Survey, including the Friends and Family Test.

Forming the Group

The first step is to seek volunteers from the patient list to join the group that represent a cross section of the demographics of the practice and who ideally have an ‘interest’ in health matters. The problem for Practices particularly smaller ones is to find sufficient people who are representative of the age groups in the practice to form a working group.  The doctors and nurses can make a start by inviting patients who they think might be interested. It is important to attract of cross section of ages, male and female and of ‘interest groups’. For instance, expectant mothers, or patients who work with an expert patient group. Putting a poster in the waiting room or either pinning a note to repeat prescriptions or adding a message to prescriptions is another idea. For those practices that already have a web site add an advertisement on the Home page. The main point is to keep recruiting. People fail to attend meetings and fall off the tree. Probably an ideal number of members is 1 per 1,000 patients.

Meeting the Group

The first and second meetings can set about organizing the work of the group – who is to chair the meetings, how frequently should the group meets and where and when. If meetings are held on lunchtimes or evening only some people may not find this convenient. It is important to have a consistent presence from the Practice at meetings so the Manager or a Lead Doctor might attend all meetings where possible. Meetings might not be well attended so another option is to form a virtual group using emails or letters to keep in touch and seek comments and views. Even so the occasional meeting is still worthwhile and necessary.

A Constution

Practices should provide a clear constitution for a PPG. It should set out boundaries and establish a principle of confidentiality. It also needs to set out how a member might be removed from the panel.

Keeping in Touch

Communications as a result of meetings needs to be positive. Use the Practice web site to publish agendas, minutes and reports. Publish a practice newsletter to show all patients what work is going on behind the scenes. Invite comments from patients direct to the practice and not just to the NHS Choices web site.

Patient Survey

Preparing and running a Patient Survey is a key task for a Patient Group. Members of the Group should discuss and agree what type of questions should be included in a survey. A survey might be carried out over one working day. Surveys involving less than 100 responses may not be very representative. The key is to obtain enough survey responses to show that the results are consistent.

Recent experience of carrying out a surgery in a medical practice in West Yorkshire has been that 30% of patients handed the survey were not prepared to complete it thoroughly. In designing the questions it would have been important to provide at three answers for each  question – a ‘yes’ answer, a ‘no’ answer and a ‘don’t know’ response. Clarity of the questions avoiding ambiguous statements was also important.

Here is a sample survey for you to look at…… Patient Survey 2013 -14 Version


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