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How to... Set up a Patient Participation Group

Post date: 04/04/2013 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 18/05/2020

patient-participation-groupsStephanie Varah, Chief Executive of the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP) shares the benefits of building a partnership with your patients


PPGs are groups of active volunteer patients that work in partnership with practice staff and GPs – this unique partnership between patients and their practices is essential to achieving high quality and responsive care.

Groups either meet face-to-face with practice staff at mutually agreed intervals or 'Virtual PPGs', which operate alongside ‘real’ groups, facilitating dialogue with the whole patient population through email networks, online surveys and social media.


PPGs can bring significant benefits to the practices who have them: reducing costs, improving services, allowing resources to be used more efficiently and, most importantly, developing mutually supportive networks outside the GP or nurse appointment. Groups help the practice by enabling GP teams to be proactive in providing services that truly reflect what patients want and need.

Some PPGs aim to benefit wider patient care within a practice – for example, by arranging transport for older or disabled patients, or by running self-help and wellbeing activities, such as weight management sessions, walking groups, etc.

Patients are encouraged and supported by PPGs to take more responsibility for their own health by increasing health literacy, raising awareness of lifestyle options and promoting self care, particularly for minor everyday illnesses. PPGs become active advocates for the practice and the services provided – practices that have a PPG are increasingly being viewed by patients as an indicator of them being a high-quality caring practice and becoming a differentiator for patients between practices in their area.

Having a PPG will also assist practices to meet new policy requirements. Practices with a PPG will demonstrate a high level of commitment towards meeting the Care Quality Commission essential standards as the new primary care regulatory framework rolls out.

"Practices that have a PPG are increasingly being viewed by patients as an indicator of them being a high-quality caring practice"


Experience tells us that excellent practices and effective PPGs go hand-in-hand. Starting a group, however, may be unfamiliar territory for GPs and their staff. The most effective model for a practice is the combination of face-to-face meetings with a ‘core group’ of patients; this may vary in numbers depending on the size of the practice and patient population, supplemented by feedback gathered by email and through online surveys from the virtual group.

The building blocks of a good PPG are:

  • Inclusive and representative membership 
  • Clear mutual understanding of purpose and role
  • Effective and sustainable operation 
  • Strong, supportive relationships and culture within the practice.

Members can be recruited by holding open meetings, which any patient may attend, by contacting individuals directly who are patients at the practice, and by creating an email list of patients willing to help practices by giving their views electronically.

"The most effective model for a practice is the combination of face-to-face meetings with a ‘core group’ of patients"

At a glance

When setting up a PPG:

  • Provide a patient’s perspective, ensuring services, plans and activities respond to patients’ needs and priorities – a ‘critical friend’
  • Foster communication with the wider patient population, building stronger patient–doctor relationships
  • Provide practical support to practice teams, eg, conducting and analysing patient surveys, organising health awareness events, etc
  • Help other patients take more responsibility for their health and make informed decisions.


To ensure clear understanding of the role and purpose of the group, patients and practices need to mutually agree ‘Terms of reference’, which set out what the group will do, and ground rules for how meetings will be run. Together these agreements will provide a framework within which the group can operate, ensuring effective management of expectations and objectives.

The NAPP ‘Getting Started’ guide provides comprehensive details on setting up and running successful PPGs. NAPP is the only UK-wide umbrella organisation for patient-led groups within general practice, with over 30 years’ experience in promoting, supporting and developing PPGs, working closely with GPs, practice teams and patients. A registered charity, NAPP has a membership representing more than ten million patients –

"Patients and practices need to mutually agree ‘Terms of reference’, which set out what the group will do"

Why set up a PPG?

Research tells us that effective engagement with patients:

  • Improves quality of care and patient satisfaction
  • Encourages patients as proactive partners rather than passive recipients of care
  • Improves concordance with treatment
  • Improves health outcomes
  • Informs effective targeting of resources, saving time and money
  • Is rewarding for professionals and improves relationships.

Did you know?

  • The first Patient Participation Group (PPG) was started in 1972 by GPs
  • Over 50% of practices in England now have a PPG
  • There are now PPGs in dental practices and pharmacies.

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