Even before Covid-19 was headline news, the message coming from the NHS at all levels had been for us all to take more responsibility for our own health.
For many this was just highlighting what was already commonplace but, with the increasing demand for NHS services, the need to look after ourselves – physically and emotionally – took on a higher priority. Then the pandemic hit us and ‘protecting the NHS’ soon became a mantra and the unprecedented scale of the impact required us all to rethink how we participate in managing our own wellbeing.
Now we are used to a modified way of receiving healthcare. Visiting our local GP practice as a first point of call has generally been replaced by online or telephone consultations, with a triage system determining the most appropriate next step. While it has taken a while to adapt to these new ways, given the current circumstances and the need to keep staff and patients safe, most people have recognised the overall level of care has not been unduly compromised, even if it has been delivered by alternative means.
Behind the scenes, GP practices are encouraged to liaise closely with their Patients’ Participation Group (PPG) whose role during these challenging times has been vital. At their best PPGs are sounding boards for change, innovation and development as well as being a channel for patient feedback and for registering concerns. In the spirit of participation, PPGs do not ‘manage’ complaints but do monitor, on behalf of patients, how concerns are processed.
PPG members are encouraged to be proactive by helping to shape how both clinical and administrative aspects of a practice can be improved and/or enhanced to better meet the needs of patients in an ever-changing healthcare environment. To this end, recruitment to PPGs of a broad representation of patients is a major objective. Providing voices that speak from differing perspectives is the ‘added value’ every PPG seeks.
The level of involvement by any one member is very much in her/his hands. Regular meetings (usually between 6 and 10 times per year) provide the basis for engagement with colleagues and practice staff. Beyond that, there will be opportunities to contribute through consultation (e.g. re-vamping a website) and practical assistance (e.g. stewarding at vaccination clinics).
Yes, it is right that we each take more responsibility for our own health and wellbeing but we can also participate in supporting the delivery of local healthcare for today and looking to the future, through membership of a PPG. For further information, contact your local practice and ask to be put in touch with the PPG Chair – details may also be available via your practice’s website.
Chair, Buttercross Health Centre (Somerton) and Ilchester Surgery PPG