All Members of Parliament are keen to be kept abreast of the local issues in their constituency. On a Friday or Saturday, many MPs hold face-to-face appointments with constituents -- this is a prime opportunity for NHS organisations to establish contact.
Relationship building with MPs can help with the more difficult conversations that may be necessary further down the line, such as discussions around potential changes to local services.
To help you engage with your MP, we have produced a simple step-by-step guide to building constructive relationships with your local parliamentary representative.
Step 1: Identify your MP
Each MP represents a constituency and is bound to serve the people living within the area. The simplest way to locate your MP is by visiting the official Parliament UK website, where you can type in your organisation’s postcode into the ‘Find your MP’ search bar.
You may find that your organisation spans a number of constituencies. MPs can legitimately make representations on behalf of their constituents who use services outside of their constituency. Consider engaging with these MPs too.
Step 2: Get in touch
MPs receive hundreds of letter and emails every day. Each MP will have a small staff dedicated to sifting through all correspondence. Letters from local NHS organisations will usually be prioritised and they will ensure that they are seen by the MP.
For first contact, it is therefore advisable to write a letter to your MP, signed by the trust's chief executive or chair, and printed on letterhead paper.
Most MPs will be keen to establish links with their local NHS organisations and a request for a meeting to make initial contact may be well received. The letter should, however, mention some of the issues you face and some key areas for discussion.
Letters should be addressed to either the MP’s constituency office or to House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA.
It is always advisable to follow your letter with a phone call to the MP's Westminster office, in the first instance, to arrange a time for a meeting. The switchboard for the House of Commons is 020 7219 3000 and you will be asked for the name of the MP.
Step 3: Arrange a meeting or visit
Unless Parliament is in recess, MPs will spend Monday afternoon through to Thursday afternoon every week in Westminster.
If you would like them to attend a specific meeting or event, it is advisable to offer a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Most MPs will hold regular constituency surgeries on a Friday or Saturday, where they will hold face-to-face appointments with constituents.
Step 4: Meet your MP
In preparation for your meeting or visit by the MP, research the MP’s background, as they may already have a good grasp of health issues in your constituency, or even previous work experience in health or social care. Other MPs might have little detailed knowledge of health policy.
You may find our range of resources helpful when preparing for a meeting.
If you are inviting an MP to an event, make sure that you have fully briefed all those involved on the logistics around the visit. The less people involved in the visit, the easier it will be to have a conversation as you show the MP around your organisation.
If you are organising any media activity around the event, ask the MP in the first instance if they are happy for the local press to be invited. In some cases, the MP may prefer to contact the local press as they may have a pre-existing relationship and other visits on the same day as your event.
Remember to share any draft press releases with the MP in advance and ask for a quote from the MP. That way their staff will be more likely to mention the meeting/visit in their communication channels (Twitter, MP’s personal website, and weekly or monthly newsletters).
Step 5: Stay in touch
When following up with the MP, suggest regular meetings so you can keep them updated on your work. You may also want to ensure your trust’s communications team regularly monitor the MPs website or Twitter account.
Need more help?
If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the Public Affairs Team at PublicAffairs@nhsconfed.org