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Engaging with Decision Makers

Writing a letter

This page will help you work out who the most relevant person to contact is. The boxes below explain how this differs across the UK, and give specific advice about contacting politicians and local NHS leaders.



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Identify the problem

What do you want them to help you with? What would you like to happen as a result? Is this something that they will be able to help you with?

Give a key ‘headline’ and outline the situation, including any proposed changes, or any important legislation or new initiatives that are relevant to why you are writing. Give a key ‘headline’ and outline the situation, including any proposed changes, or any important legislation or new initiatives that are relevant to why you are writing. If you are writing about an issue that Beat are campaigning on you can read more about our campaigns here.


Identify the goal

Ensuring that those making the decisions are aware of how this change would affect local people and users of a service is an important first step. Identify what you want your end goal to be, and then identify the steps that will help you reach this goal.

Outline the issue in more detail, including how the current situation or any changes will affect you and those close to you, and if possible, mention how many other people this will affect.

Discuss what you would like to happen and what you would like them to do. There is more information below about what decision makers can do for you.

Show the wider support for your proposals

This will help you build a broader picture of the challenges, as well as strengthening your voice and showing this issue affects many people. You could get support from other organisations and individuals affected – encourage them to write too.

Do your research

Our glossary of terms might be useful for navigating some of the jargon and acronyms. The person you are writing to might have no prior knowledge about the issue, or even about eating disorders, so try to give them a good overview so that they can understand the problem. If your concerns are about a particular service, it may help to speak to them first about how the system works and where the decisions are made, to help understand this better.

Top tips

After you have sent your letter

It can take time to receive a response, so try to be patient. If you have not heard within a few weeks, you might want to give them a telephone call to follow up the enquiry. Remember, if you would like any help you can contact the campaigns team.

Writing a letter

England

What your Member of Parliament (MP) can help with

Your MP has been elected to represent the people in your constituency in Parliament, whether or not you voted for them. They are your voice in Parliament. It is your right to tell them what matters to you, and their job to listen. You can tell them about your experience of waiting for treatment (if applicable), highlight Beat’s campaigns and ask them to make a difference for those in your area. They can raise issues with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care or other relevant Ministers. They can propose debates and ask the Prime Minister questions. They can also take on local casework and may contact local NHS leaders about local issues.

You can find the name and contact details of your local MP here. Most MPs also have websites, which will contain details about their interests, when they hold their local surgeries, and how to get in touch with them.

What your health commissioners can help with

The NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of most healthcare services at a local level in England are called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCG members include GPs and other clinicians such as nurses and consultants, and also members of the public. They have a legal duty to listen to local people and meet their needs. You can find the contact details for your local CCG here. There are larger groups called Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). They cover a wider area (as they include CCGs), and the aim of them is to provide more joined up health and social care, in a more efficient way. You can read more about them here and find details of your local group here.

Scotland

What your local politicians can help with

Healthcare in Scotland is devolved, meaning decisions about this are made by the Scottish Parliament, and not in the UK Houses of Parliament. To discuss issues relating to health in Scotland, you will need to contact your Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP).

You have one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs. They are your voice in the Scottish Parliament. It is your right to tell them what matters to you, and their job to listen. You can tell them about your experience of waiting for treatment (if applicable), highlight Beat’s campaigns and ask them to make a difference for those in your area. They can raise issues with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, the Minister for Mental Health or other relevant Ministers. They can propose debates and ask the First Minister questions. They can also take on local casework and may contact your local health board about local issues. You can approach any of your eight MSPs; they are all equally able to raise issues on your behalf. You can find the names and contact details for your MSPs here.

You will also have a Member of Parliament (MP) who has been elected to represent you in the UK Houses of Parliament. They will be able to help you with issues that are not governed by the Scottish Parliament, including welfare policy. Most MPs have websites, which will contain details about their interests, when they hold their local surgeries and how to get in touch with them. You can find the name and contact details of your local MP here.

What your regional health board can help with

The NHS bodies responsible for the planning, commissioning and delivery of most healthcare services at a local level in Scotland are called regional NHS boards. They are also responsible for the protection and the improvement of their population’s health, meaning they need to listen to local people and meet their needs. You can contact your regional NHS Board to discuss services in your area and tell them about your experiences. There are 14 regional NHS boards in total – you can find the details of yours here.

Wales

What your local politicians can help with

Healthcare in Wales is devolved, meaning decisions about this are made by the Welsh Parliament (Senedd Cymru), and not in the UK Houses of Parliament. To discuss issues relating to health, you will need to contact your Members of the Senedd (MSs).*

Every person in Wales is represented by five MSs in total – one MS for their constituency (the local area in which they live), and another four MSs that cover their region. They are your voice in the Senedd. It is your right to tell them what matters to you, and their job to listen. You can tell them about your experience of waiting for treatment (if applicable), highlight Beat’s campaigns and ask them to make a difference for those in your area. They can raise issues with the Minister for Health and Social Services or other relevant Ministers. They can propose debates and ask the First Minister questions. You can approach any of your five MSs; they are all equally able to raise issues on your behalf. You can find the names and contact details for your Members of the Senedd here.

You will also have a Member of Parliament (MP) who has been elected to represent you in the UK Houses of Parliament. They will be able to help you with issues that are not governed by the Senedd, including welfare policy. Most MPs have websites, which will contain details about their interests, when they hold their local surgeries and how to get in touch with them. You can find the name and contact details of your local MP here.

*The Senedd or Welsh Parliament was previously called the National Assembly for Wales, and your representatives were called Assembly Members (AMs). This change was made in 2020 as part of The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020.

Northern Ireland

What your local politicians can help with

Healthcare in Northern Ireland is devolved, meaning decisions about this are made by the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, and not in the UK Houses of Parliament. To discuss issues relating to health in Northern Ireland, you will need to contact your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).

Every person in Northern Ireland is represented by five MLAs in total. They are your voice in The Legislative Assembly. It is your right to tell them what matters to you, and their job to listen. You can tell them about your experience of waiting for treatment (if applicable), highlight Beat’s campaigns and ask them to make a difference for those in your area. They can raise issues with the Minister of Health or other relevant Ministers. They can propose debates and ask questions to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. You can approach any of your MLAs; they are all equally able to raise issues on your behalf. You can find the names and contact details for your Members of the Legislative Assembly here.

You will also have a Member of Parliament (MP) who has been elected to represent you in the UK Houses of Parliament. They will be able to help you with issues that are not governed by the Legislative Assembly, including welfare policy. Most MPs have websites, which will contain details about their interests, when they hold their local surgeries and how to get in touch with them. You can find the name and contact details of your local MP here.

What your local Health and Social Care (HSC) commissioners can help with

The NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of most healthcare services at a local level in Northern Ireland are called Local Commissioning Groups (LCGs). LCGs include health and social care professionals from a range of backgrounds as well as local Government representatives. They have a legal duty to listen to local people and meet their needs. You can find the contact details for your Local Commissioning Group (LCG) here.

Preparing for a meeting

Meeting face-to-face (in person or virtually) allows you to bring the issue to life. This might be the first time they’ll have heard from someone who has experienced an eating disorder, and they may even have some misconceptions. This contact, and hearing your experiences, will help them to understand eating disorders on a more personal level. It also helps to show your passion about making change, which can be very persuasive.

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Know the issue

It’s good to go into the meeting with a strong understanding of local issues and how these fit into the national picture. For example, knowing how the services in your area are performing against waiting times targets can be helpful if you’re discussing how early access to treatment needs to be improved in your area. The person you are meeting may want to probe further, and could ask more difficult questions. If you don’t know the answer or how to respond, don’t worry – you are not expected to be a policy expert, and can let them know that you will get back to them if there’s something you’re not sure about. Beat can help you prepare and gather information in advance and can help you answer questions after the meeting. Just get in touch with the team by emailing us.

Agenda

Make a clear plan of what you want to cover in the meeting and how you want to structure your time. Try to allow time for discussion and questions. An appointment usually lasts around 10 – 15 minutes, but you can clarify how long it will last when you arrange the meeting so that you can plan accordingly. Having this agenda and any information you wish to refer to during the meeting printed for yourself is a good idea – this can be especially helpful for keeping you on point and if your mind goes blank.

Agree roles

If you are attending the meeting with another person, discuss who will say what, and how you can support each other best during the meeting. It is also courteous to let the person you are meeting know who will be attending with you.

Practice

Spend some time going through what you plan to say. This will help you to feel more confident when speaking during the meeting.

Top tips

Preparing for a meeting

England

Meeting with your MP

Most MPs hold regular surgeries in their local constituency, where constituents can meet with them. Consider making an appointment to meet them there. This will usually last ten minutes, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. The details of surgeries might be on their website, but if not, you can contact their office to make an appointment.

Meeting with your health commissioners

You could contact your local NHS commissioners to arrange a one-to-one meeting. There will be other opportunities to raise concerns and make suggestions to local NHS leaders by joining special service-user groups or taking part in consultation events. You may not have long for any meeting, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. You can find your local CCG and their contact details here. You can find your local STP/ICS and their contact details here.

Scotland

Meeting with your local politicians

Most MSPs and MPs hold regular surgeries in their local constituency, where constituents can meet with them. Consider making an appointment to meet them there. This will usually last ten minutes, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. The details of surgeries might be on their website, but if not, you can contact their office to make an appointment.

Meeting with your regional health board

You could contact your regional health board to arrange a one-to-one meeting. There will be other opportunities to raise concerns and make suggestions by joining special service-user groups or taking part in consultation events. You may not have long for any meeting, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. You can find your regional health board and their contact details here.

Wales

Meeting with your local politicians

Most MSs and MPs hold regular surgeries in their local constituency, where constituents can meet with them. Consider making an appointment to meet them there. This will usually last ten minutes, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. The details of surgeries might be on their website, but if not, you can contact their office to make an appointment.

Meeting with your local health board

You could contact your local health board (LHB) to arrange a one-to-one meeting. There will be other opportunities to raise concerns and make suggestions by joining special service-user groups or taking part in consultation events. You may not have long for any meeting, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. You can find your LHB and their contact details here.

Northern Ireland

Meeting with your local politicians

Most Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and MPs hold regular surgeries in their local constituency, where constituents can meet with them. Consider making an appointment to meet them there. This will usually last ten minutes, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. The details of surgeries might be on their website, but if not, you can contact their office to make an appointment.

Meeting with your local health board

You could contact your Local Commissioning Group (LCG) to arrange a one-to-one meeting. There will be other opportunities to raise concerns and make suggestions by joining special service-user groups or taking part in consultation events. You may not have long for any meeting, so prepare for it as you might for an appointment at the doctor: consider the most important points that you want to get across in the time you have. You can [Link] find your Local Commissioning Group (LCG) and their contact details here