How to lobby an MP – effectively

The British Houses of Parliament, London

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Every year Breakthrough Breast Cancer (BBC) organises the Westminster Fly-in, a very effective day for members to lobby their MPs for better cancer services.

This year the mood was upbeat, not least because BBC’s three research units have had some notable success recently.

It’s the 10th Anniversary this year for the Fly-in, and over 50 MPs crossed Parliament Square to meet up with constituents lobbying on behalf of BBC’s two hot topics:

* Left in the Dark (for better diagnosis)

* and Improving Lymphoedema services.

At the same time Andy Burnham, (current Health Secretary) was admitting elderly patients receive worse health services, in particular for cancer diagnosis., and Burnham’s own department was admitting  “Britain’s survival rates for older cancer patients are below those of other European countries”.

This was underlined by a comment from the floor during a debate at the Fly-in,  that old people don’t complain in case they might be victimised.

MP after MP repeated the official (World Health Organisation) statistics, that our cancer survival rate for all ages is far worse than in Europe – with some strong words used to illustrate the disparity.

Whilst BBC are asking that the NHS adhere to the promised two week period for referral for diagnosis (and not 14 working days as some Trusts are trying to do), Conservative Health spokesman Mark Simmons was hitting home that Switzerland has just upgraded its referral service time from 5 days to 3 from preliminary enquiry.

‘Election year’ was another point hammered home by BCC. This is the year that we can get out and ask – and ask – that MPs do something about improving cancer services, whilst they are in a mood to help constituents.

However, speaches gave out some reassuring information.

If Conservatives get in they have promised that

* NHS funding will be ring-fenced

* To speed up the NICE process

* To provide more Clinical Nurse Specialists

* the NHS will be more ‘patient centric’ (whatever that means!)

* Money for more single rooms to be ring-fenced, but they to be offered as patient’s choice.   Apparently there is money to provide single rooms;  studies have shown that it actually cuts down on nursing provision as families handle a lot of care (which in wards is left to nurses); and of course this cuts down risk of infection.

So don’t forget to hold them to it, after the next election.

And although they fielded some excellent MPs, especially Mark Simmons, the comments around the tables wondered if the Conservatives get in, Shadow Ministers who understand their role will be dumped for ‘new’ people who haven’t any idea.

Delving around, speakers admitted that there is money for improvements, but often PCTs don’t know what to do with it.  Not surprising – my local PCT has no data to tell me where Lymphoedema clinics are in the region, and hasn’t a clue what GPSIs are (GP with special interest – i.e. cancer).

As MP Mark Simmons said, “central control diktats from Richmond House haven’t worked”.

It came up in discussions that in the NHS, expensive equipment was often only used from 9 – 4; yet in the private sector this ran for 11 1/2 hours. A nurse said she couldn’t understand this, as she worked 12 hour shifts, so it would be easy to use the equipment, with its massive capital expenditure, for many more hours and so reduce backlogs for investigations.

However, there were a few MPs who made appointments but never bothered to turn up.  Very disappointing for their constituents – some of whom had travelled a long way to get there.   And of course, the cost to Breakthrough – who have better uses for their donations than to waste this on MPs with no manners.

One was contacted half an hour after he was supposed to turn up; his Secretary blithely said, “he has been double booked”.  Doesn’t say much for his efficiency.

Not only did these MPs alienate people, but they missed speaking to a very informed and articulate group of powerful people.

As one MP said, “it’s a pleasure to be lobbied by a CAN member(Campaigns and Advocacy Network) – you are so well briefed”.

More information Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Sponsors: Novartis Pfizer Roche .

A digest of this article appeared in PRACTICE NURSE 11th December, 2OO9.

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One thought on “How to lobby an MP – effectively

  1. […] drugs for our treatment?  Makes you wonder.For report on last year’s Westminster Fly-in: as: Andrew Dilnot, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care, British Medical Journal, […]

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