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Engaging with Decision Makers

Engaging with your political representatives

What local politicians can help with 

Wherever you live in the UK, your MP, MS, MLA or MSP has been elected to represent the people in your constituency, 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 could tell them about your experiences of accessing and receiving treatment, highlight Beat’s campaigns and ask them to make a difference in your local area. They can raise issues with Ministers, propose debates, take on local casework and contact health commissioners and providers about local issues.

Most local politicians hold regular ‘surgeries’ in their constituencies, where constituents can meet with them to discuss local issues. You could consider making an appointment to meet them there. Most of them also have websites, which will contain details about their interests and how to get in touch with them.

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Finding your political representative

  • You are represented by 5 Members of Senedd (MS) – one in your constituency and another four that cover your region. They are who represent you in the Senedd (Welsh Government), which makes decisions about Health in Wales. 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. You can find the details for your MP here.

  • You have one constituency Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) and seven regional MSPs who represents you in the Scottish Parliament, which makes decisions about Health in Scotland. You can approach any of your eight MSs; they are all equally able to raise issues on your behalf. You can find 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. You can find the details for your MP here.
Northern Ireland

Engaging with health leaders

There are NHS bodies across the UK which are responsible for the planning and commissioning of most healthcare services at a local level. They usually include a range of different health and social care professionals, as well as local Government officials. They have a legal duty to listen to local people and meet their needs. You are free to contact your local NHS commissioning body to share your experience of services. There are often other opportunities to raise concerns and make suggestions to commissioners by joining special service-user groups or taking part in consultation events.


The details for commissioners slightly differ depending on where you live:

  • Integrated Care Boards (ICBs, previously called CCGs) commission services in England. You can find information about your local ICB here.
  • There are larger groups called Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). They cover a wider area (as they include ICBs), 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.

Local Health Boards (LHBs) commission services in Wales. You can find your LHB and their contact details here.


Regional NHS Boards commission services in Scotland. You can find the details of yours here.

Northern Ireland

Local Commissioning Groups (LCGs) commission services for their respective populations in each Health and Social Care Board. You can find the contact details for your LCG here.

Writing a letter

1. Identify the problem

What is the problem that you’re writing to them 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. If you are writing about an issue that Beat are campaigning on you can read more about our campaigns here.

2. Pinpoint the goal

What change do you want to see to rectify the problem? 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.

3. Give them context

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. For example, if your concerns are about a particular service, it might help to give the decision-maker some background on this service first, such as how it works and how decisions are made.

4. Do your research

Do your research – has there been research undertaken on this problem that you can reference? Has there been discussion of it in Parliament?

If you want to find other ways to show how important the issue is, you could get support from other organisations and individuals affected and encourage them to write too.

5. Follow up if necessary

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.

Top tips for a letter

  • Keep it concise
  • Ask for an appointment to discuss the issue
  • Remember to include your contact details such as your address, telephone number and email address


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.

Preparing for a meeting

1. 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.

2. Prepare an 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.

  • The beginning – Introduce yourself and explain why you have arranged the meeting. Thank them for meeting with you and for any supportive action they have taken on this issue before.
  • The middle – Try to stick to your planned agenda, keeping your points clear and concise to ensure you get time for discussion and questions. It can be useful to have some facts and statistics, but try not to rely on them completely, as these can be impersonal. Whilst they may deal with facts and statistics a lot in their role, what you can offer uniquely is your story,  what matters to you and why, to bring the issue to life. The person you are meeting might have a different view to you, so it’s important to get your views across while remaining calm and listening to what they have to say. If they have any tricky questions, don’t worry if you can’t answer, as you can only speak about your own experiences. Tell them you will find out the answer and send them further information (this is also a great excuse to follow up and build a relationship with them or the staff in their office!)
  • The end –  Explain what can be done to improve the situation, what they can do specifically and ask them to take action. This could be to contact your local health commissioners to discuss services in your area, writing to the relevant Government Minister to bring policy-related matters to their attention, asking a parliamentary question, speaking at an event, or raising the issue in the media. Try to be clear in your requests about what you would like them to do to help. It can be really helpful to prepare a handout with your key points, so that you can leave this at the end of the meeting. They might not know a lot about eating disorders, so if you can bring the issue to life and then leave them with further information that is a great start. This handout can be a good place to include some relevant facts and statistics.
3. 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.

4. 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 for a meeting

  • Make sure you are on time and don't stand them up - politicians and health service leaders have packed diaries and you don't want to miss your chance!
  • Be polite - a good start could help this develop into a positive and productive relationship.
  • If the meeting is in person, make sure you know where you need to go, how you need to get there and how long travel will take. Try to give yourself a little extra time before your appointment so that you can have a few quiet minutes to yourself beforehand and have a buffer if you face any delays along the way.
  • If the meeting is virtual, prepared by checking you have the link and downloading any apps and updates you may need ahead of time. Check that you join the meeting from somewhere with good signal where you won't be disturbed
  • Secretaries, PAs and researchers are usually the first point of contact, manage diaries and sort post. Be extra nice and they'll make it all much easier!
  • You may not have long - 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 limited time you have.