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