Like all practices, the Shepperton Medical Centre has set up a PPG, indeed some years ago now, which is eager to become better known. It includes the Practice Manager, Caroline Self, with one of her staff, Janine Dial, as secretary; there are about a dozen other members, largely just ordinary residents, though one is Councillor Robin Sider.

Each year the wording of a questionnaire is agreed by the group, to seek the reactions of patients to their experiences of visiting the practice, which Janine then scrupulously analyses and summarises. The group meets quarterly, to discuss issues brought to the attention of members and of course their own experiences: as examples, difficulty parking, problems in securing an appointment, confirming arrival, and whether ear syringing or blood samples are provided by the practice. Care in Shepperton is represented on the group by its Chair, Cliff Shears; they are to provide a water cooler in the waiting area. As an offshoot of the group another member, Rosaleen Common, is establishing a Friends body to help raise funds for similar amenities.

Until recently comparatively few people had heard of the PPG, which has indeed never sought a high profile, but now a notice board is being installed which will set out briefly the aims and purpose of the group, list the names of members, and provide an e-mail address for submissions and suggestions (my own, This will, it is hoped, allow patients an opportunity to voice their reactions and describe their experiences, though the group will not take up individual cases: the aim is to seek points affecting the many, and examine possible improvements to everyone’s contacts with the practice.

Four members of the group were invited to give evidence to the first visit by the Care Quality Commission; the testimony was uniformly favourable, so that the initial call for improvements by the CQC was disconcerting. The issue was largely to do with where records were kept, and a follow-up visit found the practice to be “Good”. The group were also instrumental in inviting a doctor from the practice to address the Shepperton Residents Association on the struggle with the Property Services arm of the NHS over an appropriate rental, an issue now largely agreed