Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) work to improve GP surgeries and local healthcare in a number of ways and many have gone the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic to support their local practices and patients. One example of this is Roseland’s PPG, forming Roseland Together.
Spanning 67km and seven parishes the residents of the southerly peninsula were anxious when lockdown restrictions isolated an already hard to reach part of Cornwall. A third of Roseland Surgeries patients are over the age of 65 and shielding meant many felt lonely and vulnerable to the virus.
To create a support network for the members of the community Roseland Surgeries Patients’ Group (RSPG) formed Roseland Together, a group of volunteers who are dedicating their time to helping the peninsula’s residents during the coronavirus lockdown.
Simone Kennett, chair of RSPG said: “Essentially the volunteering effort was to ensure people without their own support networks didn’t fall through the net and that we could support people in their decision to stay at home for the benefit of all.”
The RSPG worked across the whole area of Roseland and so was ideally placed to bring everyone together. Initially the RSPG contacted the parish council who willingly accepted help from the group that became known as Roseland Together. The group put out a call for volunteers at the beginning of the pandemic and had an overwhelming response with more than 200 people offering their time and kindness to help shielding residents of Roseland.
With populations ranging from 122 households in rural Philleigh to 1,005 homes in St Mawes it was a challenge to organise the volunteers. The next step was to identify 10 hub coordinators across seven parishes supported by street volunteers who were each responsible for a small group of homes, delivering goods and sharing information to those shielding.
People power has shone through throughout the lockdown making a real difference too many of the Roseland’s older residents and particularly for those living alone to let them know someone cares.
Volunteers have driven 1,000 miles across the region, delivering over 600 prescriptions and 2,000 hot meals to those who needed the support and appreciated the daily social interaction. They continue to offer their help and many volunteers have enjoyed helping the community.
The residents of Roseland created the ‘meals-on-wheels’ service, cooking food in three different commercial kitchens which was then delivered by volunteers to those shielding. The scheme has been funded through donations and lottery cash, secured thanks to the efforts of the PPG members, and the money has been vital for keeping the hot meals flowing for the foreseeable future.
Prior to lockdown the RSPG was an instrumental part of the community and played an active role in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly healthcare system. It was because of these trusting relationships they had forged with residents that they were able to contact those who needed help the most. The RSPG previously raised funds to employ a part time community coordinator who works to support people under the direction of the Surgery and so this was another route for providing support during the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic between 200 to 300 people would attend RSPG organised guided walks, art classes, drama clubs, singing lessons, afternoon tea and ping pong games, which gave those living in the peninsula the chance to socialise and exercise – both vital to maintaining good health.
As well as setting up a website and a Facebook group to share information, Roseland Together approached the harbour master at Portscatho. Simone said: “We set up a book and jigsaw swap in the Fisherman’s Shelter which was very popular with local people. Not everyone can go into a bookshop at the moment and as libraries were closed this proved a useful alternative.”
“Roseland Together will continue to support the community for as long as it is needed,” said the chair of RSPG Simone. A positive to take from this difficult period of 2020, she continued, is that, “people are speaking to people they’ve never spoken to before and whilst not everyone uses our help, people know it is there if their circumstances change and numerous people have told us that this is extremely reassuring in these trying times.”