The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has meant Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) can’t hold face to face meetings. We wanted to find out how PPGs in Bucks were doing at this challenging time. We were also interested to know how PPGs were working during this time so that we could share this with others.
What did we do?
In April we sent an email to all our patient PPG contacts. We didn’t approach PPGs for which we just had a Practice contact.
What did we find?
We had a great response from PPGs. As well as general updates, we heard some inspiring examples of the ways that PPGs in Bucks are working to support their Practice and the wider local community. You can see a summary of these below.
Keeping in touch with PPG members
Practices and PPGs are using a range of different ways of keeping in touch with each other.
It was great to hear that Gladstone Surgery first involved their PPG in mid-March. They made contact to explain what they were communicating to patients. They also asked for the PPG’s input and ideas on a variety of ways to get the messages out to everyone. The Practice Manager has kept in touch with some PPG members since then.
The Poplar Grove Practice PPG has been using both social media and the phone to keep in touch with its members. They’ve been sharing as much as possible on Facebook and Twitter and they have seen a marked increase in followers and post shares since lockdown. The Chair and Vice-Chair have also been phoning members who don’t use the internet to keep them updated.
We heard from other PPGs who are using their virtual groups or email lists to keep members updated.
At the Haddenham Medical Centre, the Patient Group has a virtual group as well as its members who attend regular (face to face) meetings. The virtual PPG has continued as normal and in fact, has become more important. The PPG is providing updates from the Medical Centre and local support information for patients that are in self-isolation.
Rectory Meadow PPG has used its list of members to repeat messages from the Practice website and to encourage people to look at the website for information.
The PPG Chair of the Little Chalfont Surgery put out an early flier to PPG members emphasising the government guidance on self-isolation and hand washing. More recently, they also had information on how to make a face covering. The PPG also joined with local groups to support the ambulance service who are encouraging people to keep a summary of their information handy, in case it’s needed in an emergency.
PPGs supporting their practices
We have been told about the variety of ways that PPGs have been actively encouraging and supporting their practice.
Early on Cross Keys PPG sent a letter of support to their Practice. It thanked them for their continuing efforts during this challenging time and offered the PPG’s help. The PPG has kept in touch with its PPG members and the practice via the practice manager. The PPG felt it was clear early on that the way the surgery operated was going to have to change quite radically; from making an appointment, accessing the surgery and the consultation itself. The PPG supported the changes. The patients have welcomed the greater use of video and telephone consultations, in many cases saving a trip to the surgery. The PPG recently had a Zoom meeting with the Practice Manager. Importantly they discussed how Cross Keys Practice will learn from their COVID-19 experiences and shape the new way of continuing to provide primary care to its patients.
The Haddenham Medical Centre is also helping to relieve pressure on the Medical Centre and the pharmacy by answering questions from members by email.
Meanwhile, Poplar Grove Practice PPG has been focussing on the safety of practice staff as a top priority and have helped to source extra PPE, scrub bags and headbands. They’ve also been encouraging children to send in rainbow-inspired pictures to brighten up the surgery. The PPG also runs a Pop-Up café. Some of its members are now knitting hearts for the hospice as well as clothes for premature babies and the tiny blankets for incubators.
Business as usual (using digital tools)
Although PPGs can’t meet face-to-face at the moment, that hasn’t stopped Meadowcroft Surgery from carrying on working. They held their April meeting via Zoom. Four members joined in (with a fifth on the phone) as well as three Practice members including a GP. The meeting followed the usual format. Everyone was sent an agenda in advance and the group discussed the issues that would be covered during a face–to–face meeting. The secretary took minutes and these will be circulated to members as always. One key item on the agenda was a discussion about the new website. This is now up and running and a PPG sub-group is meeting every two weeks to review it. The PPG asked for the group to be visible from the home page. This has been done and it now links to a great section about the PPG.
PPGs working within their community
We’ve also heard about the amazing work that PPGs are involved with to support their community.
The Chair of John Hampden Surgery PPG is acting as a bridge between local community activity (via a Facebook group) and the Practice.
Likewise, members of the Burnham Health Centre PPG are helping with their local Resilience Group. The PPG has been communicating between the Health Centre and the Burnham Resilience Group. For example, volunteers are helping out by picking up medicines for residents from the local pharmacy. We also heard that the Practice has been putting out useful Facebook posts every week that have helped to keep patients informed.
The Simpson Centre PPG decided to suspend its activity until regular service is resumed. Instead, they are contributing to their local community effort. Some of the members have “put their shoulders to the wheel” with ‘Better Connected Beaconsfield’. The charity is working very closely with both GP surgeries in Beaconsfield. Its website explains how the 300+ buddy network is supporting the community. There’s also a food bank and a ‘Listening Ear Service’.
We want to hear from you
If you’re a member of a PPG please get in touch and tell us what your PPG has been doing during this time. We will be adding all the examples we hear about to our PPG toolkit.