“When I was offered the chance to meet my Conservative MP, Penny Mordaunt, as part of the RCN's Scrap the Cap campaign I saw it as an opportunity to do something more. I spoke to her about the campaign and how pay is having a massive impact on recruitment and retention in the NHS, among other things. It's easy to think of politicians as dismissive, but she listened to me carefully and took what I was saying on board. I was pleasantly surprised with how the meeting went.
“If we don't try to engage MPs, we won't change anything. You can't just rely on someone else to speak for you – you need to take ownership. Without so many members getting involved in the campaign, the cap would never have been scrapped. Now we need to maintain the pressure on the Government if we want to secure a meaningful pay rise for nursing staff.”
“My Labour MP Nic Dakin has always supported nurses and has signed up to be an RCN nursing champion. We have regular meetings and he has a good relationship with our local RCN branch. We always let his staff know about any problems in the health service and he’ll take them on – he’s even raised some in parliament. I would encourage all members to contact their MP about anything that concerns them, as the more letters you write the more they get to know you and the more they might take on nursing issues.”
“I met my Conservative MP Neil Parish and would definitely recommend meeting your elected representative. You can ask them directly about topics like pay and staffing levels and they get to hear what it’s like from people working on the wards, not just from senior managers. Neil seemed fully on board with the RCN pay campaign. I was pretty nervous beforehand but I had a briefing with RCN staff and they told me what topics to cover and the direction to go in, and an RCN officer came with me, which gave me more confidence.”
Heather, left, with Neil Parish and RCN Officer Ann-Marie Stanley.
“I’m an active Labour supporter and had previously met Paul Blomfield, my Labour MP, at an RCN Scrap the Cap event, so we already knew each other. He’s been very supportive of the NHS and sympathetic to the plight of nurses. The more members go and tell their MPs the reality, the better they’ll understand the situation. MPs are representatives for all of us so they should be approachable and there shouldn’t be anything daunting about meeting them. But they can’t be experts on every subject so we’ve got to go as a profession and tell them how it is on the ground.”
“I met Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt as I felt he needed to know what was happening on the ground in his constituency. I told him I was really worried about patient care and the most vulnerable people in our society. He listened and I hope he went home and thought about what I said.”
Ahead of my meeting with Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey, my colleagues and I did a lot of preparation and were very clear about what we wanted to say. We voiced our concerns about the Northern Ireland pay freeze and the impact it was having, and outlined how MPs could use their influence to address it. Paul was very aware of the issues and was supportive.
Although Sinn Fein MPs don’t take their seats in the House of Commons, they still have offices in Westminster so they know what’s going on and are able to lobby. Paul's advice to us was to engage every political party to get them on board with the campaign. It was a very positive meeting.
I would have no hesitation about trying to engage other MPs – it wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be. We were respectful and so were they – they listened and didn’t try to rush us. It’s important to be open and honest about what the problems are and how you want to change things.