Here are some tips on how best to approach your MP to ensure your case is given the priority it deserves. These notes only apply to England. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be added in due course).
1. Background to the availability of different treatments
Government Ministers create the broad-brush health policy picture whilst civil servants (Ministers’ officials) work up all the details necessary to implement the policy. Every two or three years, the Treasury announces how much money the Government will spend over a three-year period and allocates this money between various Government departments. It is then up to each Department to decide how it will spend its allocation. The Department of Health (DoH) assigns part of its budget to 195 (as of April 2018) Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which are responsible for providing NHS services for their local populations. The DoH believes that each CCG should decide its own funding priorities and, beyond insisting that it implements NICE guidance on particular drugs or interventions (where it advises use of these) it generally will not interfere too much at local level on the detail of policy.There are, however, exceptions and stated Government policy is that no CCG should use the absence of NICE guidance as an excuse not to fund drugs of proven worth. The let out clause is that a CCG should still make decisions as to the healthcare it provides, ‘in the light of local needs’.
2. What influence does my MP have on health policy?
Many local politicians take a keen interest in the services that are provided by their local NHS and are unimpressed to hear that valuable treatments are not being made available solely on grounds of cost, where the evidence supports their use. So it is worth writing to MPs to ask for their support in helping to improve services locally.
They are also able to reflect what is happening at local level to Ministers and this can help in persuading Ministers to take a more proactive stance in ensuring that particular treatments or services are made more widely available.
So getting the support of your MP is an important step in getting your voice heard. Your MP is in a position directly to influence Government Ministers and civil service officials, who can, in turn, influence CCGs.
It is important that MPs are made aware of your dissatisfaction with local services for the diagnosis, treatment and management of kidney cancer. The more people who write to their MP, the more clearly will it be understood why the Government needs to act to improve services in this area.
3. How do I contact my MP?
You may wish to attend your MP’s constituency surgery to present your views directly. Surgeries are usually held on a regular basis in different locations throughout a MP’s constituency. Your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau will be able to tell you where and when your MP holds surgeries. Or you can check on the internet, as most MPs now have their own websites that will carry this information.
Alternatively you can write to your MP, briefly relating your experiences in your own handwriting, at the following address:-
House of Commons
Letters with a constituency postmark are likely to receive priority treatment.
You can find out who your MP is by typing your postcode into the appropriate box on the following web site: http://www.writetothem.com/
4. What should I say?
You may wish to structure your letter broadly as follows:
- Explain your situation
- Explain the experience you have had and what aspect of the service you are unhappy with thismight be lack of facilities, long waiting times or lack of access to treatments, for example
- Ask the MP to look into this by writing to the PCT to ask what it will do to address the shortfall in service
- Ask the MP to write to Minister to express their concerns about gaps in service.
Remember that handwritten letters look more personalised and are therefore likely to carry more impact.