In early 2001, my Lancashire practice decided to involve patients and carers in the planning, delivery and development of future healthcare provision by setting up a patient participation group (PPG).
At the PPG's first meeting in May 2001 the members decided to focus on health promotion. The group is very active and since 2002 has been arranging health promotion events on topics where members wanted more information.
The box lists the events we have held and more are planned.
So why did the PPG choose these particular topics? Its membership reflects the local population: mums with young children, the elderly, disadvantaged patients, patients with chronic disease and frequent users of practice services.
The PPG chose topics that it felt addressed the needs of local people.
The first event in March 2002 was on childhood eczema and was held because younger members with small children felt that the time constraints on the GPs and practice nurses were too severe for full explanations of eczema management.
Areas they wanted to discuss included the role that diet plays, how to treat an exacerbation, the difference between treatment options, when to see a GP and steroid phobia.
The complementary healing event later in 2002 was held because a PPG member with chronic back pain had benefited a great deal from complementary medicine and felt it could help others too. She took a lead role in organising complementary healing sessions.
The two male members of the PPG wanted to know why men die on average five years younger than women. So men's health was the topic of the next event. The local diabetologist talked about preventable risk factors such as smoking, central obesity and hypertension.
This event was well attended and the group decided to hold another one but this time inviting a local cardiologist.
Now it was the turn of the female members. A local gynaecologist was asked to speak about menopausal health and reducing the risks of osteoporosis. At the time there was a lot of media attention on the risk of breast cancer and HRT.
This event was publicised in the local newspaper and in our PCT magazine.
One member wanted to organise a talk about breast self-examination. So the menopause health event concentrated on self-examination and a local gynaecologist gave a talk.
My practice nurse suggested the asthma session held in 2006 because she felt that passive smoking was one of the strongest risk factors and perhaps by addressing smoking the prevalence and severity of the disease could be reduced.
The PPG agreed to invite an asthma specialist nurse to talk about inhalers.
By 2009 the PCT wanted our group to help other practices that wanted to establish a PPG. The newly-appointed PCT cardiovascular prevention nurse found out that our PPG organises well-attended events, so she approached the chairwoman and asked her to organise the healthy heart session in May this year. At this session the nurse discussed atherosclerosis and lipid profile.
Making space for events
My surgery has a large reception area so some events are held there on a Thursday afternoon, the practice's half day. The practice funds the tea, coffee and soft drinks served.
With the help of local reps, drug companies sponsored the talks by a local cardiologist, diabetologist and gynaecologist, which we held at a local hotel. These events were very well attended and brought local publicity to the PPG and my surgery.
Reasons for success
Our PPG has the right mix of individuals including enthusiastic people who know about and understand local services often from personal experience.
Once a decision is made about the date and topic, a poster is displayed on the PPG's own notice board in the surgery (where it also posts details of various self-help groups).
Posters advertising events are also displayed in local surgeries and pharmacies. Two weeks before each event, it is advertised in the local free newspaper.
With the men's health event, the PPG also arranged to put up posters in local pubs, gyms and in the library.
We also print a short message about each event on repeat prescriptions. Receptionists tell patients and carers about events when they come into the surgery and the district nurses publicise them to the carers of housebound patients.
- Dr Sharma is a GP in Oldham
|PPG's Health Promotion Events|
|Children with eczema: March 2002|
Complementary healing: September 2002
Men's health event: March 2003
Menopause event: July 2003
Healthy heart and you: October 2003
Menopause health: September 2004
Asthma: March 2006
Health awareness: June 2008
Healthy heart: May 2009