Join a patient participation group
If you're looking for a way to make a difference to local services, a good place to start is by joining your GP surgery's patient participation group (PPG).
Every GP practice has been obliged to have a PPG since April 1 2015 as a way of getting feedback and involving the public in one of the most used parts of the NHS - primary care services.
PPGs can help give input on everything from whether the waiting area has enough patient leaflets or magazines, through to being interviewed by independent inspectors from the Care Quality Commission when they visit to check and rate GP surgeries.
Joining a PPG is simple - just ask your GP surgery's practice manager. It is a voluntary, unpaid role in which you commit to attending a regular meeting at the surgery, or take part 'virtually' through email or social media conversations.
How do PPGs work in Reading?
In Reading, chairs of the PPGs from Reading's 20-plus GP surgeries, regularly get together with each other and local NHS decision-makers, to swap information and raise any issues they would like to be addressed. These groups are known as North and West Reading Patient Voice, and South Reading Patient Voice.
PPGs have also been asked to help the new Berkshire West Integrated Care System design the future of primary care services, starting with a major workshop held at Reading Town Hall in January 2019 attended by more than 80 people.
How does Healthwatch Reading support PPGs?
We have created a PPG Toolkit which is available to all PPGs in Reading. It covers everything from the basics of running PPG meetings, encouraging diverse representation, to the different ways PPGs can influence the NHS.
We launched the toolkit - with the help of local NHS funding - in 2015 – and updated it in January 2019. We have also run training workshops for PPGs.
In addition we endeavour to attend most meetings of Reading's two Patient Voice groups to share information, hear public experience and take away issues to escalate.