Intended for healthcare professionals


Patient participation groups

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 21 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2333
  1. Shobhana Nagraj, academic clinical fellow in general practice,
  2. Stephen Gillam, general practitioner
  1. 1Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK
  1. sjg67{at}

NHS reforms offer new and wide ranging opportunities

Involvement of patients and the public is meant to be at the heart of the coalition government’s health policy. Liberating the NHS claims to “strengthen the collective voice of patients and public.”1 Patient participation groups are one way in which the views of patients might be heard more clearly in future. Such groups emerged more than 30 years ago but have been slow to gain hold. In 2007, 41% of practices were reported to have a patient participation group,2 but the true proportion of active groups is probably lower. Their role has always lacked clarity, but the current NHS reforms in England offer new opportunities for these groups.

Patient participation groups are voluntary and usually based around a general practice.2 Activities undertaken by these groups come under three broad categories.3 The first concerns health education—for example, running educational meetings for patients. The second role is that of “critical friend”—giving advice and feedback on services provided by the practice. Thirdly, some groups generate material support for practice …

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