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Do Patients Offer a New Hope?
With our end of year returns almost complete, the new financial year brings a new challenge for Practices and we are facing tough times ahead. However, could be that the real drivers and champions for us in general practice are in fact our patients?
It’s often difficult to get a GP or a member of staff to attend the Patient Participation Group (PPG), considering a 6.30pm meeting with patients in our waiting room often looks like an extended evening surgery en masse, but we seem to like engaging with our group and meetings often turn out to be highly productive.
The patients don’t really know or understand what we do every day, and why should they? They usually just come to the practice for an appointment and, on a good day, this is often only about 30 to 40 minutes out of their day. And yet they seem to have a multitude of ideas on how to improve everything from a lack of car parking spaces to creative and often alarming ideas on how to deal with patients who regularly don’t attend their appointments!
Put us on the spot
They regularly quiz us about the box-ticking culture we’re sadly still in and why they can’t see the same doctor more than once or on Wednesdays when they’ve taken the bus to come into town especially to see Dr Jones. They are right to challenge us on everything we do because it makes us have to really think about whether or not there’s a solution to their question and come up with a reasonable answer.
Some PPG’s usually start out as a platform for complaints but if it’s handled correctly, and often by other members of the PPG, then these things are often ironed out and resolved quickly, especially since most of them don’t really want to hear another patients life story or the poor experience they’ve had at other surgeries since 1975! I’m pleased to say that our PPG often suggest workable ideas for improvements in access to appointments and changes to our telephone system to make it easier for patients to get through on the phone and speak to the correct person who can deal with their query.
Let them have a voice
As healthcare providers we have justifiable concerns about the direction of the NHS, which is much more about patient care than self-interest, but we still aren’t being listened to. I think our patients are a hidden and underused resource and will be inviting them as much as possible to take part in public consultations and negotiations which affect their care and their local GP practice. They are able to voice their concerns whilst remaining immune from allegations of professional bias and they have as much, if not more, at stake.