The doctor’s surgery is often regarded as the most important asset to a community. Communities depend on them and feel invested in them. But when problems arise with services, patients often do not know where to turn and sometimes social media becomes an unproductive platform for people to vent. This was especially felt during the pandemic when services were under pressure, and patients experienced higher levels of anxiety about their health.
One service that aims to address patients’ concerns and build confidence in our health services is the Oundle Patient Participation Group (OPPG), which acts as a liaison between the Oundle Surgery and its patients, relaying information and feedback between the two parties.
The OPPG is a voluntary group representing all registered patients with the Lakeside Oundle Practice. It is made up of volunteer representatives from the local community and meets up to six times year. It also holds an annual open practice meeting, usually in October, to which all patients in the community are welcome.
Issues that patients raise with the OPPG are put to the practice manager in question and answer sessions for comment or resolution. At previous meetings, patients’ issues included GP working hours, patient records and hospital discharge processes, telephone systems and face-to-face appointments.
Although the OPPG believes that ultimate responsibility for the dissemination of information to patients lies with the practice, the OPPG’s purpose is to seek positive change for improvement of services that affect patients by working with the practice and suggesting alternative solutions to current systems. They believe that patient feedback is critical to this.
The OPPG spokesperson said: “We are all committed members and are passionate about what we do. Our aim is to bring about positive outcomes to ensure that patient expectations are aligned with the service provided by Lakeside Healthcare Oundle, as well as remaining in line with current NHS and Government guidelines.”
The OPPG receives feedback via email and by word-of-mouth. Any comments conveyed to the practice manager are confidential and no names are disclosed. The Q&A sessions with the practice manager are published along with normal meeting minutes on the OPPG pages of the practice website. They are aware of posts on issues the community might be sharing on social media, however they choose not to engage with comments made in those forums.
“We believe that whilst social media has its place, patients are encouraged to give feedback direct to us where we can more easily get to the heart of the matter by speaking directly with the practice manager about issues that are important to them,” they said.
The spokesperson emphasized that the OPPG is not a forum for complaints. These must be submitted directly to the practice manager under the NHS guidelines for the complaints process. Information on how to file a complaint is on the practice’s website.
The OPPG is available to offer advice on how to do this, should it be the only option to resolving personal issues.
The last eighteen months have been a challenge for everyone working in healthcare. From a patient perspective, the OPPG found that many of the concerns were about not being able to see doctors or other medical practitioners face-to-face, and only having telephone or online appointments.
During this time, the OPPG found one of the main challenges was that membership decreased for members’ personal reasons. However, a small group continued to operate, embracing the transition to Zoom meetings, which enabled them to support patients throughout the pandemic.
They are now planning to launch a new way of working from January 2022, and will be looking to increase the membership.
More information is available at oundlesurgery.nhs.uk or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.