The role of the patient group is to support the practice and input into ways of improving patient experience at the practice and health and wellbeing issues in the local and wider areas, particularly mid Nottinghamshire.
The patient group has been meeting bi-monthly and discussions are varied and sometimes challenging. The group is not a complaints group or involved with clinical matters but does raise common issues.
The group is open to all patients and they can dip in and out of meetings to suit. We also have a patient E-group who are unable to attend meetings. Information is sent to them via email so that they can keep up to date with what is happening and respond to any surveys and issues that the group are involved with.
During the last year the group have met bi-monthly to discuss various matters and give a patient perspective on topics that can try to improve patient experience and knowledge both at the practice and in the wider health community. So, what are some of the topics we have raised or had an input in.
The Family and Friends Tests are a way of getting patient feedback on their experience of using the services at the practice. The patient group has been able to support gathering information at our events. Over the last twelve months the Family and Friends Tests have shown an improvement in the consultations with the GPs – they were high the previous year but have got better still. There were also improvements on nurse appointments and reception staff. However, there are areas where improvements need to be made. These are around appointments. Some patients do have problems getting appointments and it is an issue that most GP practices across the country have. The partners and management are constantly looking at this issue and have tried different approaches over the last few years. This is ongoing, and the patient group are kept informed and asked for opinions on the systems. As a patient group we have asked for patient opinion on ways to improve the appointment system but often while quick to criticise they are not forthcoming with ideas on how to improve things. Is the answer to have more doctors and more appointments? Today’s problem is finding doctors. Willowbrook have been trying, without success, to recruit at least two doctors for the last 12 months. It’s a difficult and frustrating time for the GPs.
We have continued our support the practice to reduce DNAs – these are patients who do not turn up for appointments and/or don’t bother to cancel. This costs the practice a lot of money over the year but more importantly it stops other patients being seen. While we understand missing an appointment is sometimes unavoidable in most cases a phone call or for those who do online booking a simple cancellation could give access to many patient appointments. Although the patient group and practice have been promoting the DNAs at meetings, events and display screens at the practice we have seen an increase in DNAs to 3443 from 3078. This represents 4.4% of the 78,842 appointments offered. This not only costs the practice over £150,000 per year but it means that a potential extra 65 appointments a week could have been completed. We’ll never get it to zero, but any reduction leads to more availability in appointments and reduce the strain on the system. It’s a case of spreading the message which the patient group and practice will continue to do.
The patient group with support from the practice put on an event in October “Know your family services”. This was primarily aimed at older people but also there to inform families of what services the practice offers. The event coincided with flu clinic to ensure better coverage. Around 60 patients came along during the morning. Stands and displays were provided by Age UK, County Enterprise Foods (Meals at Home service) and the Willowbrook patient group. Staff from the practice were on hand to provide information and I thank Stephanie Chapman, Assistant Practice Manager, for her support and to the Advance Nurse Practitioners and the Clinical Pharmacist for talking to patients. A report of the event is available on request.
We continue encouraging patients to join the PPG so that we can be more representative of the patient profile in our practice area. As well as talking to patients at events and in the practice, we have this year developed a leaflet to inform patients about the group. Any patients can come along to the meetings and if you wish to join the group, please contact the practice manager. You don’t need any skills only a willingness to help contribute to make a better experience for patients.
We share with the practice its wish to improve the ability of patients and members of the public to use its services and those in the community appropriately, to make better use of Pharmacists, Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Practice Nurses rather than always expect a GP to deal with the more common issues which puts pressures on appointments for GPs and avoid pressure on A&E services.
Other work the PPG has been involved in has included the ongoing pressure on the council to improve the drop curbs on the pavement. This has now been finally resolved after two years of chasing and badgering the authorities.
Willowbrook Medical Practice works closely with the Mansfield and Ashfield Clinical Commissioning Group (MACCG), who commission and pay for health services in the area. They also listen to patient views through their Citizen’s Reference Panel (CRP). Patient groups views are fed through the CRP through locality representatives. Willowbrook is part of the Ashfield North locality.
We are trying to make the PPG more aware of what other PPGs are doing in the Ashfield North locality, and what the clinical commissioning group is doing to support PPGs. There are regular meetings where PPGs from other practices get together to find out the latest health and wellbeing topics and discussions. It is a great place to network with other patients and pick up tips. Willowbrook PPG has had representation at most of all the meetings.
So, we have had a busy year with some positive results but also recognise the need to support the practice to continue to look at ways to improve services.
A big thank you to all the patient group members, especially to Peter Robinson, who been a great support to myself during the year and to Stephanie Chapman for her support.
After four years in the Chair I am stepping down and hope that the new Chair will take the group forward with the full support of patients and staff.
It has been a rewarding time but a challenging time of change in the way health is delivered and it really does need the input from patients to provide “on the ground” experiences to help shape the service. I would like to thank all the patients who have been involved with the group and all the practice staff and partners for their support over the years.
I hope in 2018-19 we can continue and improve on the work that the PPG has delivered over the last year and make your experience of using the practice as enjoyable as it can be.
Chair – Willowbrook MP Patient Participation Group.