A survey of 500 practices by the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP) found that 40 per cent now have one, compared to 25 per cent in 2005.
The report says the groups are now the key way for practices to engage with patients. Forty per cent of practices with a patient group said it was very or quite influential in running the practice. Those with patient groups benefit from input on decisions such as improving phone systems and premises, NAPP said.
Despite this increase in their numbers, the report recognises that many GPs are still sceptical about the value of patient groups.Some felt they already had enough contact with patients, and feared that groups would attract 'awkward customers'.
It was also found that practices in semi-rural and rural areas are more likely to have a patient group than those in inner-city and suburban areas.
Brian Balmer, GPC member and chief executive of Essex LMCs: said: 'We have seen a reduction in scepticism about patient groups and their value to a practice.'Comment below and tell us what you think