Denys tells us about how he got involved in his local PPG, and how they are encouraging patients to take care of themselves.

Over 3 years ago I was in the waiting room of Cross Keys Surgery in Princes Risborough. I saw a notice about the Patient Participation Group (PPG) and thought, that looks interesting. I attended the next meeting, sadly there were only a couple of others there and no lay Chair. After the next meeting I asked why a practice manager was chairing a patient group. Silly me, as I soon found myself volunteering for the post! As a starting point, I decided to speak to the practice partners and volunteered myself to do the job for a year.

So, some 3 years later I am still here and happy to continue supporting our patients and the surgery. I must say at the outset we are very fortunate to have an excellent surgery with great staff. Luckily, if you are sick you will be seen or spoken to on the day. In some ways this makes the Chair’s job easier, I believe that patients have an important part to play in health care.

Taking Care of Yourself

Firstly, for most of us the best person to look after our health is ourselves. Also, the NHS offers a whole range of support and screening programmes to help keep us healthy.

Unfortunately, not everyone uses this support:

  • 50% of those eligible got their flu jab in 2017
  • Only 50% of people have had an NHS Health Check – When you get your invite from your surgery take it up, it may save your life.
  • 50% offered had a bowel cancer screening. If everyone took this up, 2000 lives a year could be saved!

However, some screenings do a bit better:

  • Breast cancer screenings have reached their target rate of 75%
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screenings are one of the most attended at 80%. (Please note, this screening is mostly offered to men above the age of 65.)

But like so many medical matters if you have a concern, then talk to your doctor who can arrange the necessary tests. For example, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, but there is no health check programme for prostate cancer. This is because it is still unknown whether the benefits outweigh the risks. But, don’t be shy to ask about it, guys. It may be a life saver.

Improving IT Awareness

As a PPG we are trying to get people to take better care of themselves and embrace the greater use of Information Technology. For example, we encourage people to book appointments online rather than over the phone. This reduces waiting times and can often be more convenient. The other day I was in the surgery chatting to patients and one was texting away when I asked one how he made his appointment. His phone auto-dialled (lucky guy!) 45 times get his appointment. When I told him one click would do the job he was overjoyed. I find the best way to get the message across is face-to-face time in the surgery.

As the Chair of our PPG, I have a great bunch in the team and we meet every 3 months along with the practice manager and a doctor partner. We have as frank and open discussion. We feel that the surgery staff support us, and we support them – a win win situation for all.

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