With the clocks going back, the nights start drawing in and the weather taking a turn we can definitely say winter has begun! Some welcome the opportunity to wrap up warm and embrace the Danish idea of hygge, for others it’s more of a struggle. PPGs have been working hard in November to help fellow patients as we head towards Christmas.

There were opportunities this month for us to promote the fantastic work PPGs do in Dorset by having PPG information stalls at a summit meeting hosted by Dorset GP Alliance, pop-up covid vaccination events on Portland and a Carers Rights Day event in Weymouth.

We also helped create a winter information event in Blandford (there was one in Poole too that took place on 7December  – we’ll mention this in the December blog!), where people could get a health-check, covid vaccination, and feed back on future plans for the NHS in Dorset. Attendees could also get information and speak to people from many organisations involved in health, social support and the voluntary community sector, and meet animatronic support pets! A huge thank you to everyone who helped promote this event in your communities, especially the GP practices who sent text messages to their patients, letting them know about the events.

Gill’s month began with an event at Shore Medical in Poole who are resurrecting their PPG. It was a really great meeting with lots of patients keen to be involved! This was followed by the November meeting of the Cranborne Practice PPG, always a lively meeting with lots of good discussions and ideas of how to support the practice. The meeting was given an interesting update from the Digital Public Engagement Group which was very well received.

Jim went to a special meeting of the Prince of Wales PPG where they discussed a grant they have been awarded from their local Rotary Club. As the PPG are active with many public facing events and initiatives, they agreed to purchase distinctive lanyards that would identify them as PPG volunteers to help both patients and practice staff at future events. Jim’s looking forward to seeing the lanyards in action soon!

Gill went along to the November meeting of Gillingham PPG where we received an excellent in-depth update on the practice transformation plan which was being put together with input from the PPG. The practice also said it was considering changes to its online patient access platform (currently eConsult but the practice is looking at Klinik and AccurX).

Jim went to the Central Bournemouth PPG meeting where the group helped give feedback to a patient newsletter that will be published soon. They also took part in a good discussion with Colette, the practice manager at St Albans Medial Centre on topics relating to all practices in the Primary Care Network.

Gill attended the Wellbridge (Wool) PPG and gave sincere thanks to the outgoing PPG Chair for all her hard work in reinforcing the excellent relationship between the practice and PPG, as well as her attendance at quarterly meetings with the other PPG Chairs in Purbeck (where the PPG Leads can hear about activities in other PPGs and practices across the PCN and talk about issues and experiences).

There were several PPG meetings in Weymouth and Portland Primary Care Network this month. Jim went to the Dorchester Road Surgery PPG meeting where there was a full agenda including updates on the practice’s merger with Royal Crescent & Preston Road practice. The Wyke Regis PPG welcomed new members and there were good questions raised by PPG members and discussions with the practice. There was also an update on the new Klinik system that replaced at the practice eConsult recently.

Orchid House PPG in Ferndown invited Gill along to their November meeting which was very well attended – Gill finds it invaluable to meet new face-to-face groups as she finds that by far the best form of engagement!

At the end of the month Gill met with the care coordinator at Yetminster Surgery who has some brilliant ideas for resurrecting the PPG, which Gill was excited to hear about.

Jim also hosted the Weymouth & Portland PPG Chairs meeting who welcomed Jim McMahon representing the Dorset Patient Engagement Group (DPEG) to the meeting who talked about digital opportunities for patients and joined in lively discussions with the group. The PPG Chairs also met with Laura Godfrey, the clinical director for the Weymouth & Portland Primary Care Network. There were some really positive discussions held with more meetings being planned for the future, including supporting the PCN with their ageing well initiative. We hope this will forge even closer relationships between the PPGs, the PCN and GP practices in Weymouth & Portland, which should help benefit patients even more in the future!

Gill and Jim hosted the final PPG webinar of 2023 in November, featuring guest speakers talking about Dorset Care Record, Wessex Care Record and how patient data is used to forecast health trends in Dorset and combat illness and disease in the future.

Outside of work Jim and Kelly went to Exeter Christmas market, which has now become an annual tradition. They loved going round the stalls, doing some Christmas shopping, having lovely street food and getting in the Christmas spirit!

Away from her desk Gill went to London with her husband and friends to celebrate their friend’s birthday, where she was lucky enough to dine at The Ivy and then to see Mamma Mia The Musical. Gill acknowledges she is probably the only person on the planet who didn’t like the Mamma Mia film, so she was pleased to report the show was brilliant!

As we end our November blog, we mustn’t forget to mention the ‘c’ word – no, not Christmas – communication! Which is something our PPGs are so good at and we are increasingly grateful for their help in supporting their practices and sharing the information we circulate. Thank you everyone!