GPs could use Facebook to set up patient groups

GPs could use Facebook and online forums to set up patient participation groups, the GPC has said.

The DES requires GP practices to establish patient reference groups (Photograph: Peter Crane)
The DES requires GP practices to establish patient reference groups (Photograph: Peter Crane)

More than half of practices already have patient groups, estimates from the National Association for Patient Participation suggest. However, others will need to establish groups to comply with the patient participation DES.

The DES requires practices to set up patient reference groups that mirror their local population in terms of sex, age and ethnicity.

Practices must agree an action plan with this group as well as survey patients and publicise the results.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that such participation could include social media such as Facebook.

'The key is that the practice has made an effort to engage with patients in an open way and not just engaging two or three patients,' he said.

'Some practices are already looking at e-forums as a useful way to share information and gather feedback.'

The BMA and NHS Employers have produced free guidance around the DES, which could net practices that comply £1.10 for each registered patient.

The BMA and NHS guidance says patient reference groups can be set up through e-forums rather than as formal groups that meet face to face.

The guidance also urges practices to ensure they collect information about patients in particular ethnic groups.

Community interest company Primary Care Commissioning is also releasing a toolkit to help practices to comply by the end of April.This costs £495 a year and gives guidance on promoting surveys and a template of typical survey questions.

GPs have raised concerns that practices will struggle to comply with the DES.

Earlier this month Derbyshire LMC secretary Dr John Grenville said he feared patient groups would be dominated by elderly retired people who have the time to get involved.

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