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Set up a Patient Participation Group

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.
  • By David on 17 November 2015 06:58 Being part of a local PPG for the past year, and with the experiences of this, I would also raise similar points to Jonathan Greenyer (3 Feb 2015) when he says that the in-house professionals are better than a lay group. Every business and consumer organisation should be spending time and energy in keeping in touch with their stakeholders, in this case the patients, and hierarchically to the CCG about the needs of the community. Each practice needs someone whose prime responsibility is to "feel the needs" "sense the patients views" and be so aware of issues that they can influence the decisions of the practice as a important aspect of practice planning. The website of the practices should be promoted and developed, with scope for patient feedback and surveys, not separate websites of PPG's. Commenting on Elizabeth's email (24 Sep 2015), the practice manager needs to watch how the patient walks, ask how does it feel, and to support change (to use her picture). Talking alone does not produce benefits.
  • By Tom Serpell on 10 November 2015 10:14 Did you ever get an answer to this, Jonathan? Its a good question.
  • By Elizabeth on 24 September 2015 08:38 Because the patient walks the walk while the the practice manager or internal specialist as you call it talks the work.
  • By Rachel on 03 February 2015 03:00

    Hi Jonathan

    The National Association for Patient Participation has a wealth of information on its website, including the benefits aims of joining a PPG. We would recommend that you contact them for more information.

    Hope that helps!

    MPS Web Team

  • By Jonathan Greenyer on 03 February 2015 10:42 I have been invited to Join a PPG. If I were cynical many of the above advantages from running a PPG sound like the PPG are doing the job of the Practice Manager, or the Practice Business Development Manager.  Running surveys and gaining consumers views in commercial companies does not usually mean forming a lay group, these things are done by a specialist internally.  So please help me, why is a PPG better than a in-house professional in a practice?
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