Patient engagement gives people an opportunity to have a say in decisions relating to their health and care. Patient groups are important for that involvement, as they offer people a forum to give opinions and make their voice heard.
Set up to fulfil a variety of functions, patient groups provide opinion on what healthcare services should be provided, feedback around services, tests and modifications to ideas and plans, or even advice as a ‘critical friend’ around the direction of a project. This all influences the decision-making process.
Patient groups , through their committees, also offer a useful sounding board for how things sound or appear to patients in everyday life, able to advise on the language and images used, on terminology that might be familiar to practitioners but means nothing to the person in the street, and on existing links with other voluntary agencies. Some patient groups might be keen to bring social events "in house" or others to work with other groups in their locality on presenting, for example, healthy living talks to a wider audience.
When Social Prescribing based in surgeries a good option is to engage the patient's groups , many of which need a more structured function. They can help support clients, help explain why the GP is not being lax in his/her duties in looking for alternatives to medication, and create a stronger feedback link between patients and their surgeries.