The PPG met in the Gym at the Kentish Town Health Centre 5 times in 2019, and once in February 2020, before the coronavirus lockdown. In July 2020 the PPG meeting was held on-line, using Zoom, and this remained the case until February 2021 (4 meetings). Each meeting was attended by Gill Walt (chair), Mimi Colahan (Vice-chair), between 10 – 16 patients, the practice manager and the link GP.
During 2019 a number of changes of staff took place: Loni Booker and Siobhan Moriarty, practice managers, both left, and the management structure of the practice changed. When Natasha Smeaton left to go to Queens Crescent practice, the GP link relationship with the PPG went first to Dilini Kalupahana and then to Sarah Worboys.
The PPG was active in a number of areas during the period, summarised below. Details are in the Minutes of each meeting, on the participation page of the James Wigg website.
Raising Awareness About Dementia
Nori Graham, a retired psychiatrist specialising in old age, introduced the notion of raising awareness about dementia among James Wigg patients. A training session was held in November 2019 for reception staff and PPG members, and a meeting planned for the following March, for a wider community of patients. Because of the pandemic, that meeting did not take place.
PPG members were involved in a number of different activities:
- Between 3-5 members helped to manage the reception queue 3 mornings a week, advising and answering queries of patients and other visitors to the Kentish Town Health Centre. Through their feedback, a number of improvements were suggested and changes to reception processes were made. The PPG drew up an information sheet for new volunteers and new reception staff. Both patients and practice staff expressed great appreciation for the work of the volunteers.
- A small team of volunteers restored the garden outside reception, which had become neglected, with the support of FreeSpace, a charity funded by Kentish Town Improvement Fund. The garden now flourishes and small changes have made it a haven for patients and staff.
- PPG members also helped deliver and collect art boxes and weekly creative activities arranged for shielding patients by FreeSpace.
- At the beginning of lockdown, when GP practices, hospitals and care homes were acutely short of PPE (personal protective equipment) the PPG worked with BARA, a local residents’ association, and a local laundry, Universal Dry Cleaners, to make and provide masks and scrubs for health staff. The local community donated fabric, found patterns, and sewed hundreds of pairs of scrubs and masks, some of which were delivered to the James Wigg practice, among others.
- A small study was undertaken by the PPG to try to capture the experience of a few James Wigg patients during lockdown. Twenty patients who had been in touch with the practice were interviewed by 5 PPG members. The overall conclusion was that for this very small group of patients, the practice had met their needs, although not always as smoothly as they would have liked. Telephone consultations were found acceptable, and the great majority of patients found the consultation with the doctor highly satisfactory.
The on-line Zoom meetings focused on a number of different subjects that patients identified (see Minutes of meetings for details):
- Questions around coronavirus, which shifted over time, and ranged from concerns about transmission, testing, PPE, vaccinations among many other issues.
- Issues around access to the practice, waiting times, the telephone system, the introduction of the e-consult form, telephone consultations and rules around face-to-face consultations, repeat prescriptions on-line, and the website.
- Broader concerns about the impact of the pandemic lockdown on staff wellbeing, on patients with other conditions such as cancer, and on patients with long covid.
Looking beyond the practice itself, representatives from the PPG who sit on CPPEG (Camden Patient and Public Engagement Group) were able to inform PPG members about the establishment of the North Central London CCG, incorporating 5 London boroughs, as well as the NCL experience of, and response to, coronavirus and the vaccination programme, among other things. The PPG was also informed about HealthWatch surveys and question and answer zooms about the pandemic.