National Patient Participation Week 2018 is a UK-wide event held between June 4th and 9th. It is an annual event that raises the profile of Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) that are associated with GP practices (primary care).
PPGs are a contractual requirement in England but not in Scotland, and they provide one way for people to get involved in local health care services. According to the UK umbrella body, National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP):
PPGs can play a number of roles, including:
- Advising the practice on the patient perspective.
- Organising health promotion events.
- Communicating with the wider patient body.
- Running volunteer services and support groups to meet local needs.
- Carrying out research into the views of those who use the practice (and their carers).
- Influencing the practice or the wider NHS to improve commissioning.
- Fundraising to improve the services provided by the practice.
NAPP’s main focus is England, although it lists some PPGs in each of the 4 home nations on its Affiliated Groups page (8 listed in Scotland).
NHS Scotland – patient and public involvement
The health systems in the four UK nations have diverged significantly since devolution. The National Health Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2004 placed a legal duty on NHS boards to consult with and involve the public. In response to the 2004 Act, the then Scottish Executive established the Scottish Health Council (SHC) as the body who would monitor how NHS boards carry out their statutory duty to involve patients and the public in the planning and delivery of NHS services. The Act did not require boards or GP practices to establish PPGs.
The role of the Scottish Health Council
Some PPGs do exist in Scotland, and the SHC website lists all the Scottish PPGs. Currently there are 99 active and two inactive PPGs in Scotland.
The SHC is a Committee of Healthcare Improvement Scotland. The Chair of the SHC is appointed by Ministers.
The role of the SHC is to promote improvements in the quality and extent of public involvement in the NHS in Scotland. It supports and monitors work carried out by NHS Boards to involve patients and the public in the planning and development of health services, and in decisions that affect the running of those services.
In 2016-17 the SHC budget was approximately £2.3m. It has a network of 14 local offices across Scotland (one in each health board area) and a National Office in Glasgow, but its chief role is to work with and support boards to engage with the public.
The Scottish Health Council and “Our Voice”
“Our Voice” is a programme of work delivered in partnership by the SHC, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, The ALLIANCE, COSLA and the Scottish Government.
The SHC state that “Our Voice” is based on a vision where people who use health and social care services, carers and members of the public are enabled to engage purposefully with health and social care providers to continuously improve and transform services. This could happen at individual, community and/or national levels.
Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee
Over the past year or so, the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee have been considering the role of the SHC.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland gave evidence to the Health & Sport Committee on 1 May, as part of wider scrutiny of the work and functions of the SHC. The Committee asked whether they felt that legislative changes were required in order to support the SHC’s work with Integrated Joint Boards. The HIS Chief Executive said that he believed that the SHC could continue to work with IJBs, including providing advice around proposed changes to local services, without the need for changes to legislation.
UK wide Public Participation in Health
The four UK nations organise public participation in health differently, and PPGs are just one part of the picture.
In Wales, Community Health Councils are the statutory, independent bodies associated with each health board, where people can raise concerns about local health services.
In Northern Ireland, the comparable body to the Scottish Health Council is the Patient and Client Council.
In England, Health and Wellbeing Boards were established by local authorities to act as a forum for local commissioners across the NHS, social care, public health and other services. The boards intended to:
- increase democratic input into strategic decisions about health and wellbeing services
- strengthen working relationships between health and social care
encourage integrated commissioning of health and social care services
NHS England also hosts ‘The Involvement Hub’ which supports patients, carers, staff and the public who want to find out more about participation – both how to do it and how to get involved.
Healthwatch declares itself to be the ‘national consumer champion in health and care.’ The Health and Social Care Act 2012 made provision for the establishment of this as a new statutory committee within Care Quality Commission. The Department of Health commissioned The King’s Fund to review and report on progress of Healthwatch in 2015.
Edna Stirrat, Collections Officer, SPICe