Evaluation of the 2019 PPG annual conference

The second annual PPG conference took place on Thursday 14 November at the Shire Hall in Bodmin. The event was originally planned to take place at the Knowledge Spa at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, but due to issues beyond our control an alternative venue had to be found 2 weeks before the event.
A small working group comprising members of the Citizen Advisory Panel, patient participation groups (PPGs_ and the voluntary sector had been formed during the summer to arrange the conference and advise on its content to ensure it was relevant for delegates.

The group was clear that it wanted the conference to take place in a central location that was easily accessible by public transport to help reduce mileage and people’s carbon footprint. The nearest central location we could find on the same date to avoid cancelling some of the key speakers was at the Shire Hall in Bodmin. A decision was made to move the location, rather than cancel the event and rearrange at a later date.

The 2018 event had been arranged by Volunteer Cornwall and NHS Kernow, and was attended by 60 PPG representatives. This time we invited a similar audience – all PPG chairs, practice managers and nominated clinicians – but also extended the invitation to relevant people working within the community whom we thought would provide rich conversation and insight to the day’s discussions, such as community makers and people who have been involved with specific pieces of engagement within their community.

Acceptances were received from 65 people to attend this year’s event, and comprised of representatives from the Cornwall’s PPGs, practice managers, and the voluntary sector. The last minute change of venue might have impacted on the numbers of people attending, particularly from the west of the county where we are aware it took some people nearly 2 hours to drive to Bodmin due to distance and traffic.

We will contact the PPGs which either accepted and did not attend, or those groups which did not respond to our invitation, to understand what influenced their decision so we consider when planning next year’s event.

The event was organised by NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team, with support from NHS Kernow’s chair’s PA Rachel Tofts, Volunteer Cornwall, and members of the Citizen Advisory Panel, to develop the agenda.

The day was split in to 2, with the morning dedicated to providing an update on key topics covering the plans to create a health and care partnership; changes in primary care and the development of Primary Care Networks; what makes a good PPG, and what things people might like to consider to improve engagement and better support people, including social prescribing and active signposting. There was an overview and demonstration of the new Healthwatch Cornwall interactive engagement platform; Ask Cornwall, and discussions about opportunities for people to get involved with influencing the development of the draft adult mental health strategy; and the personalisation of health and care services. These topics were chosen as it was felt they concerned key developments that people should and would want to know more about and influence.

It was also decided to hold a marketplace during the lunch break where people could talk to representatives from the NHS perinatal mental health team, the farmers’ union, the Kernow British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, and Safe Haven.

This decision was a result of the sheer number of ideas people wanted to cover during the day, and learn more about the opportunities for their practice to support people in their community. It proved to be hugely successful.

In the afternoon, delegates could participate in 3×35 minute workshops about opportunities to influence the development of the draft adult mental health strategy; discuss what makes a good PPG, and share their experiences of what works, what doesn’t, and what members could learn from each other; and a discussion on the personalisation agenda. Each group rotated so people could attend each session.

We received 19 completed evaluation and feedback forms, and people’s satisfaction of the event was overwhelmingly positive, with an overall appreciation of the opportunity to talk to people from other parts of the county to learn what’s working well, and not so well, to improve their PPG.

The full range of comments are provided at the end of this report, but in summary the majority of people who completed a feedback form felt they could get to the event easily, although several comments were made about parking at the venue, particularly the lack of a map identifying a nearby cheaper long stay car park.

The majority of people said they could hear and understand what was being discussed during the day, although 1 person who uses a hearing aid said they struggled with background noise and could not hear all the workshops. A hearing loop was provided, but a recommendation for next year is to ensure people are made aware of the availability of a hearing loop and asked if anyone would like it to be used.

People felt the conference was mostly well organised, but we are aware of issues at some practices where the invitation was not shared with the relevant PPG contact. It is strongly recommended that NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team works with NHS Kernow’s locality team to ensure there is an accurate list of PPG chairs and practice managers’ email addresses before the next conference.

People left the event feeling better informed and they understood the challenges facing Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s health and care system, and the solutions to improve the way care is provided. This is clearly extremely encouraging as explaining this challenge – and the opportunities this provides to improve the way health and care is provided – was a primary purpose of the day. Some people commented both on the day and on the feedback form that they had not appreciated the sheer number of organisations involved within the work to improve the health and care system.

Most people felt they had ample opportunity to contribute to the discussions, which is also encouraging as we wanted to ensure people felt relaxed and could speak to allow the free flow of conversation and ideas, particularly when discussing what works well, and what doesn’t, at individual PPGs. Some people asked for more networking opportunities and workshops to be considered for the next conference, and also suggested that an online forum is created for PPG members to share thoughts and to keep in touch with other in between conferences.

Several Volunteer Cornwall community makers also reported making contacts with PPG members who wanted to become more involved with the broader work taking place in their community, with the aim of supporting people within their practice. This is a really positive outcome and highlights the need to expand the invitation list to the next conference.

Following the conference, a summary of the conference was presented to the members of the Citizen Advisory Panel in November, with a number of ideas and suggestions made on how to improve future conferences. The main areas of concern people raised was the distance people had to travel, and a suggestion was made to consider running smaller conferences across the county to reduce the need for people to travel (1 person commented they travelled more than 100 miles to attend the conference in Bodmin).

This suggestion would also complement the work that is being undertaken by NHS Kernow, Healthwatch Cornwall and NHS England to stimulate meaningful engagement in communities as part of the work to develop primary care networks (PCNs).

Members were also clear, however, that they didn’t want this to dilute the opportunities for people to network with PPG members from across the county, and it was felt there would still be a need for a larger single conference somewhere in the middle of the county for people to come together, supplemented by opportunities to network and share ideas in the interim. An idea to support this could include the creation of an online forum or improve links between localities where members could communicate with each other. This could be achieved through the work to develop PCNs.

Given the need to ensure the voice of PPG representatives, and members of the community are given prominence at future conferences, rather than the agenda simply directed by what NHS Kernow believes people would want to know, it has also been suggested that the ownership of the conference is delegated to the Citizen Advisory Panel to agree the content of the future agenda, where the conference/conferences will be held, and when.

If approved, the panel would be supported by members of NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team to provide the necessary admin support to book a venue/venues, manage the invitation list, presentation slides and any other work that is required to ensure the event/s are a success.

Preliminary work has already been undertaken by Rachel Tofts, PA to NHS Kernow’s chair, to identify the availability of various potential venues across Cornwall. It is strongly recommended that work on the 2020 conference begins during the spring to ensure there is sufficient time to plan and execute a successful conference which achieves its aims and objectives.

A number of recommendations are now made for the Citizen Advisory Panel to consider ahead of the 2020 conference.


  1. The Citizen Advisory Panel to consider taking a lead on the organisation of the 2020 PPG conference, with support provided by NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team. This will ensure the agenda continues to be focused on what is important to PPG members.
  2. To consider having 2 conferences – 1 focused in the west / mid Cornwall, and another in the east, to reduce the distance people travel – supplemented with a larger conference in the centre of the county for all PPGs and relevant groups to network together.
  3. Investigate the creation of an online forum for PPG members to share ideas and talk to each other in between conferences, to help stimulate the development of PPGs and PCNs.
  4. Provide a map of parking, bus and train timetables / routes, and a map of the venue when sending invites and agenda to all delegates.
  5. Ensure delegates are aware of the availability of a hearing loop at the start of the conference.
  6. NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team to work with NHS Kernow’s locality team to compile an accurate list of PPG chairs and practice managers’ email addresses before the next conference.
  7. Consider more networking opportunities and workshops for the next conference.
  8. Expand the range of people on the invite list to include community makers, navigators, and other people working within communities to improve engagement.
  9. NHS Kernow’s communications and engagement team to contact the PPGs which either accepted and did not attend, or those groups which did not respond to our invitation, to understand what influenced their decision. Consider their responses as part of the planning for the 2020 conference.

Other comments received after the event

  • Have had a great event, lots of good ideas exchanged.
  • I was asked about training the new SPLWs that they were recruiting to start in December.
  • Disappointed that not all PPGs attended (only 12 GP surgeries represented at workshop). During workshop I realised there were lots of health professionals there who boosted attendee numbers.
  • Wondered if it would have been better in spring.
  • More notice so more people could attend.
  • Dr Walden was an excellent speaker.
  • I thought some presentations were just padding out.
  • It felt it was a bit ‘flat’ compared to last year’s conference.
  • Good opportunity to speak to other PPGs and learn from them.
  • Conference wasn’t quite as expected, I wanted to talk to other PPG members.
  • Launceston PPG workshop was good.
  • Not many PPGs attended, and I feel venue was too far away – a 110 mile round trip from the Lizard.
  • I would suggest a conference in north, mid and west.
  • Thought the whole day was a bit long. A morning finishing with a meal would be better.
  • Thought Dr Walden and the chap with diabetes spoke very well.
  • Maybe different rooms for workshops.
Event feedback

Could you get to the event easily

  • Yes: 16
  • I managed with some difficulty: 4
  • No: 0


  • Good map, but perhaps highlight long stay car park
  • Please tell people about the long stay car park.
  • Big room, but cold.
  • Please highlight car parks.
  • Surprisingly easy parking.
  • Would have been helpful to know there was cheaper parking nearby – apparently £1.50 for the whole day.
  • Thought it was the Shire Hall over the road.
  • Over an hour’s drive though.
  • Hard to find and expensive parking.
  • Venue was a little tricky to find – entered wrong door.

Could you hear/understand what was said

  • Yes: 19
  • I managed with some difficulty: 1
  • No: 0


  • Could not hear all in the workshops – have hearing aids and struggle with background noise.
  • Great input from all speakers.

How well organised was the event and what could be done to improve it?

  • Very well: 11
  • Okay: 9
  • Very badly: 0


  • All worked well – good format.
  • Didn’t get invitation or details directly.
  • Gluten free food provided – thank you.
  • Well structured.

Did you feel you understood more about the local challenges and potential solutions facing health and social care?

  • Yes: 14
  • Somewhat: 6
  • No: 0


  • Overwhelmed by the number of organisations involved.
  • Encouraged by voices of people and personalisation, although still unclear on actions to get there eg mental health strategy not specific or action-orientated enough.
  • This was a wide remit and there’s a lot more which hasn’t been discussed yet.

Did you feel you had enough opportunity to provide your point of view?

  • Yes: 17
  • Somewhat: 3
  • No: 0


  • More networking/workshops/activities, fewer presentations.
  • Plenty of opportunity to interact.

Overall, was it worthwhile attending?

  • Yes: 17
  • Somewhat: 2
  • No: 0


  • Very informative.
  • Good to meet with PPGs in my area.

How much do you feel involved in planning and decision-making about local health services?

  • I am as involved as I want to be: 16
  • I would like to be more involved but it’s not a big deal: 0
  • I don’t feel involved at all and I’m unhappy about that: 1


  • I feel energised by the opportunities.
  • Yes, it’s a big part of my job.
  • There is a lot of talk about holistic services, however this should not just be holistic for the individual – how do you gather knowledge of the family around and then the impact of chronic/acute health issues and then be proactive about signposting before issues arise.