We cannot believe we are nearly at the end of 2023 and what a year it’s been! We’ve loved being able to get out and about to visit practices and support our PPGs who have been incredibly hardworking as always. During 2023 we’ve not only been to as many PPG meetings as we could manage, but we’ve also worked on the Community Conversations project, been to numerous health events, carers events and health talks as well as hosting PPG network meetings and webinars. It’s fair to say it’s been a bumper year!

December began with a community event on Portland, where we fed back to the patient population the work that had been under way since the first Portland community event earlier in the year. It was great to see our colleagues from Island Community Action (ICA) out in force as well as other health and social care organisations

Gill’s first PPG meeting of December was in Sherborne at the Grove Medical Centre where the group discussed the exciting plans for a Sherborne Health Event in May. The PPG Chair also regularly presents a report at Sherborne Town Council meetings to raise the profile and awareness of the PPG, as well as promoting the importance of public engagement.

Jim went to the Friends of Shelley Manor meeting in Bournemouth and heard how the group are planning on restarting their art and craft group in the new year to encourage local people to get out, meet new people and get creative. A representative from a nearby care home came along to the meeting and is keen for residents to be involved in group activities. Jim also heard that group members are supporting an agoraphobic patient at the practice.

Gill hosted the quarterly meeting of the Purbeck PPG leads network which is also attended by the PCN clinical director and the PCN operations manager. At these meetings the PPG leads are able to hear about what is happening across the wider PCN in terms of services and staffing, so it’s always a really interesting and informative meeting.

We held another Winter Information Event in Poole on 7 December. Even though the weather was atrocious on the day, we were pleased to welcome so many people along to the event where they could take the opportunity of having a health check, covid vaccination, and feedback on future plans for the NHS in Dorset.

A massive thank you to the practices that helped us promote the event by sending out text messages to patients – it really helped raise awareness and swell the numbers on the day! A big thank you too to all the organisations involved in health, social support and the voluntary community sector, who came along and talked to people about support available to them.

Jim went to the Puddletown PPG meeting where a new chair was elected and the group started planning initiatives for the new year. The group were also given a tour of the newly completed loft conversation in the practice’s attic space, which includes a staff room and office space for primary care network staff. At the Prince of Wales PPG meeting the group received personalised lanyards, which were printed following a donation from the local Rotary Club. At both meetings it’s a tradition for members to bring home baked goods to the December meeting – something Jim always enjoys!

Lifeboat Quay Medical Centre PPG in Poole invited Gill along twice to their patient events – the practice has recently merged with The Adam Practice and the first event was to get patients together from both practices and answer any questions they may have. At the second PPG event the meeting was treated to mince pies and a fantastic performance from the Breathless Singers choir!

Gill’s next trip was over to Canford Health Medical Centre where the newly formed PPG is going from strength to strength. The practice team has worked incredibly hard to engage with patients and it’s so good to see this paying off. Gill has also been invited to speak at the local residents’ community meeting – more on this in the next blog!

Jim attended a follow-up meeting between the primary care network and PPGs in Weymouth and Portland. They’re keen to help encourage people to take control of their health, to self-manage their medical conditions and also help prevent medical conditions occurring in the first place. They will be working together in the new year on different projects including health talks and promoting digital health apps.

The Apples Practice PPG in Sherborne was Gill’s next meeting, where the group discussed the recently formed Youth Town Council, and also talked about the PPG projects and activities planned for 2024.

Jim and Gill were really pleased to meet up with Dorset Council’s Community Resilience Liaison Officer, Clare Jennings. We were keen to explore the possibility of holding a future PPG webinar to talk to patients about the importance of greater community resilience – watch this space for more information soon!

Gill hosted the North Dorset PPG representatives network meeting where the group was introduced to the new care coordinator from Yetminster Surgery, who is working hard to re-establish the PPG in Yetminster. Each PPG lead updated the group about the PPG activities in their area which is always interesting for the others to hear about. A regular update from the population health management and quality transformation lead at the Blackmore Vale Partnership was also very well received.

Bere Regis PPG members helped with the Carers Group Christmas event and kindly invited Gill along. It was a lovely afternoon topped off by a performance from the local bellringers, and some very tuneful Christmas carols! And a perfect example of PPG members working in collaboration with other local groups!

Jim attended an online meeting hosted by Wessex Cancer Alliance, discussing ways that the process for diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer can be improved in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Jim was really pleased to see PPG members from Dorset at the meeting. More meetings are being planned for 2024, details of these will be circulated by Gill and Jim.

Gill hosted the December meeting of the Cross PCN PPG representative group, which is a meeting to enable PPG leads from PCNs where they may be the only active PPG, so they can network and hear about what other groups do. This time the group talked about a new telephone system at one of the practices, a new online triage system, a practice merger, and an update on winter vaccination programmes so it was a very lively and interesting meeting!

Jim met with Deb Slate from mid-Dorset PCN – Deb analysed the 2023 annual GP patient survey and has been talking to PPGs in the area about her findings. One key area identified was digital access, especially navigating GP practice websites. Deb will be working with PPGs and practices to look at ways each GP practice website in the mid-Dorset area can be improved from a patient perspective.

Outside of work Jim and his wife took part in a ‘chase the pudding’ event in Weymouth, in aid of the Will Mackaness Trust – people dress as Santa to chase people dressed as Christmas puddings along Weymouth beach – it’s as fun as it sounds! After the run this year both Jim and Kelly ended up being interviewed on BBC South Today and judging by the messages many people saw it!

Away from her desk, Gill visited Bath Christmas market with her daughters which was great fun!

Although we very much enjoyed a break over the festive period, we’re always looking to the future and how best we can support our practices and PPGs. Thank you all for your amazing hard work in 2023, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, and we look forward to working with even more of you in 2024!