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Meet the PPLG
Read all about how the current members of the PPLG came to be involved, what they've been working on, what the best parts of being a member of the group is and why you should get involved too.
Linda Samuels is a founder member of the PPLG and during the past eight years she has been actively involved in most aspects of the group’s work, from inputting views on the SCoR’s response to the Francis Report, to working closely with internal and external boards and groups.
“My involvement with the group began in 2007 when I responded to an advert in a national newspaper. My background is education but I had been involved in my local primary care trust and have always taken an interest in healthcare. Like many people, I’d had x-rays so I thought ‘why not?’ and applied to become a member,” says Linda.
Alongside other members of the group, Linda contributes to working groups and inputs into both SCoR and national guidance. She sat on the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group and has been an influential member of the National Cancer Action Team. The group was also instrumental in bringing about the National Radiotherapy Patient Experience Survey and responded to the new NHS cancer strategy – the Five Year Forward View.
Linda also brings her lay experience to the College Board of Trustees and the Approval and Accreditation Board. She is also an ISAS assessor.
However, Linda admits that in the very beginning she had to find her feet: “Being a lay person, I was always quite shy and wary about putting my point of view across. But I soon realised that people really value your opinion. Certainly in this organisation, I never detected tokenism of any kind. You feel really valued and it’s clear that people do want to know your opinion, in the genuine belief that the experience of patients will be much better as a result of hearing it.”
She adds: “We respond to what’s asked of us really well and we work effectively together, but we’d like to get much more involved in project work and develop.”
Linda says it’s extremely satisfying to be a part of the big picture that is patient care: “I think the most satisfying piece of work I’ve been involved in recently was the Radiotherapy Patient Experience Survey. It was so well received and had a really high response rate. It has been very important too and hopefully departments have taken the results on board.”
Linda’s advice to those who may be considering applying to become a PPLG member is clear:
“I’d say to anyone – get involved! And the more you get involved, the more you get out of it. I’ve met many incredible people and seen some of the vast amounts of work that goes on. It really makes you appreciate what is done for the patient and gives you a small but not insignificant insight into the NHS. It’s incredibly enjoyable.”
Barbara Jones has been a lay member of the PPLG for over a year. Originally a therapeutic radiographer, her work with the PPLG has allowed Barbara to continue to make a difference in how cancer sufferers are treated even in her retirement.
She recalls how she first got involved: “My daughter is now a therapy radiographer. She gets Synergy News every month which I read just as a matter of interest, and she spotted an article asking for people to join the PPLG. She thought I might be interested and next thing I knew I was joining up.”
Being on the PPLG has opened up plenty of interesting opportunities for Barbara. Last year she got the chance to go to the Houses of Parliament to meet with Andrea Jenkyns MP, who chairs a cross-parliamentary committee on NHS patient safety.
She’s also been actively involved in the Radiotherapy Advisory Group working on guidelines for staffing radiotherapy centres.
One issue close to home which Barbara feels strongly about is radiographer careers. “For me, one of the most important things is how staff are treated and their career development,” she says.
“Radiographers need help. Their salaries have been frozen for 5 years, you can’t expect them to fund themselves totally when they do their Masters for example, it’s impossible.
“So if you want educated and trained staff you have to help them further their careers.”
And Barbara feels that all contributors are equally valuable to the group, no matter what their past experience or what walk of life they’re from.
“You can make a contribution. Obviously us lay people are not as technically up to speed in terms of what’s going on on the front line, but we can look at it from a common sense point of view, and say ‘don’t you think it should be this way, or what about this’.
“When people are very close to the problem sometimes they don’t see the bigger picture, so that’s what our voice is all about, we bring another aspect.”
Why should you join the PPLG too? Barbara believes that it provides a great opportunity to do something worthwhile.
“By joining it shows you’re not just going to sit back and watch everything happen, that you want to try and make a difference to what will happen in the future in one really important branch of healthcare.”
Philip Plant is the Chair of the PPLG.
He became involved after suffering a period of ill-health during which he came into repeated contact with diagnostic radiographers, and it left a lasting impression on him. “My experience was nothing but positive,” he says.
“We’re currently a group of six lay members and we would like to grow our numbers.
“Membership is open to anyone and we meet two or three times a year, with expenses covered by the College. We also keep in touch electronically,” he adds.
Philip explains that being a part of the PPLG is more than just turning up, having a voice is important: “From the PPLG perspective it is important that we are more than a ’tick box’ and that we understand radiographers and the environment in which they work so that we can provide credible and genuine support,” he says.
Philip touches on some of the important work done by the PPLG since he’s been a part of the group. “We are supported by SCoR officers and work closely with them on a broad range of projects and professional issues.
“One of the pieces of work we were involved in was the Radiotherapy Patient Experience Survey – an excellent piece of work that made a difference to patient care.
“We also share our insights and views with SCoR working groups, boards and other organisations.
"It’s both fascinating and very rewarding to know that as a lay person you can get involved and help in the delivery of great patient care.”
Carole Myer has been involved as a lay member of the PPLG since it was set up.
Her interest in providing a patient voice dates back to her time Community Health Council member, coupled with her work with various health charities, particularly those with a specific interest in children and young people’s health and welfare.
“I’ve always been interested in health and I’ve always been interested in how it effects people and how people can effect the delivery of the service,” explains Carole.
“From my point of view, when people are talking about delivering the service and what it is and how it’s done, you put your patients hat on. In particular, I would put on a hat either as a parent of a child or a child, and ask ‘how would I deal with this situation, how would I like to be treated, what sort of information would I like’, that sort of thing.”
Carole feels that her involvement in the PPLG has been something of a journey of discovery, revealing important aspects of the health service. “Something which I hadn’t realised before is how crucial radiology is in delivering modern healthcare. It’s an essential part, and it’s growing because the ability to diagnose and deliver therapeutic treatment is increasing,” she says.
“People who haven’t had a lot of experience of radiology tend to think of it as just x-rays, but it’s far far beyond that.”
Understanding the ins and outs of radiography is not necessary to join the group, insists Carole.
“You don’t necessarily need to understand how it works, you need to be able to express a view about how you think the patient undergoing treatments should be treated.
“Going to the meetings increases your understanding and knowledge, you’ll never be an expert, but that’s not what you’re supposed to be.”
Carole has one important lesson for any potential joiners, which she has picked up from her years of experience. “Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand. Back when I was involved in other watchdogs there were lots of times when I wasn’t sure but I didn’t want to ask a question.
“Then one day we had a new member who said ‘I know some things, but not an awful lot, so I’m sorry but I’ll be asking lots of questions’, and everybody thought well done you, thank you very much, that’s what we all want to do as well!”