Sheringham Patient Participation Group (PPG) was formed in 2008 with membership consisting of patients and some practice staff. The group met monthly in the GP surgery and over the years managed to raise funds for the practice and waiting room equipment, held health awareness mornings for residents, took part in surveys and research and have had representatives on local health and voluntary groups.
Like the rest the country, this all came to an abrupt stop in March 2020 with the outbreak of COVID-19. As a group we kept in touch and were waiting to be able to get back together.
In December 2020 the Practice Manager approached us to look at coordinating the outside marshalling for the forthcoming vaccination sessions starting in January 2021.
The Practice was not only commissioned to vaccinate our own over 70-year-olds and vulnerable patients, but those from another large local surgery as well. An invitation was sent out to all the PPG members but also to possible interested residents. Within a couple of weeks, we had a list of 50+ people wanting to volunteer – quite overwhelming. We contacted another PPG that had been successfully vaccinating for a few weeks in the county, asking for tips. They kindly offered great advice with a risk assessment and volunteering role form. We quickly adapted this to our local needs. Equipment such as high visibility vests, torches and refreshments were purchased. As time went on, we ended up being inundated with kindly donated cakes, biscuits, tea and coffee (all well appreciated).
Our first week was very memorable with daily snow blizzards, temperatures of -3 degrees and a foot of snow! We were absolutely amazed that with all the appalling weather, 97% of our over 80’s pitched up for their vaccination. We heard stories of some of these elderly people not having been out of their village for over a year, which was reflected in some interesting driving! As well as marshalling the surgery car park we also had volunteers at three other nearby church car parks.
By the end of 2021, a great team of volunteers had marshalled at 69 vaccination sessions. It was hard at times, particularly with appalling weather conditions, but a lot of friendships were formed, and fun was had. The surgery laid on a thank you lunch with entertainment in late summer with a generous gift for everyone. By September we could see that it might be a time to try and restore our PPG meetings, especially as we had lost several members due ill health. October saw our relaunch with two open meetings, repeated on a morning and evening weekday. We managed to have a good turn out and recruited more members, including a new virtual group.
We are back to monthly meetings, fundraising with a recent successful tombola outside a local supermarket. We’re planning a mental health awareness morning later in the year, regular health issue displays, monthly speakers and are looking at local transport for residents needing to attend health related appointments.