As part of our Close the Gap campaign, we have been trying to ensure that as many of our RCN Eastern region members as possible who want to meet their MP get the opportunity to do so. Who better to tell politicians what it is like working on the frontline of the NHS, than those working on the frontline of the NHS?
Arranging these meetings isn’t always easy. It can involve a bit of persistence – we’ve learned that sending an email to an MP isn’t usually enough to get them to jump into action. There are follow-up calls to be made, more emails to send when they ask you to submit your request again, more follow-up phone calls to check the email has been received. And that’s even before we get to the point of debating times, dates and locations for meetings.
In many cases, MPs and their staff have been very accommodating in offering meetings and allowing RCN staff to go along to support our members. As non-constituents, the MP can refuse entry – and in some cases they have.
In other cases, getting even an acknowledgement of a request or getting someone to return your call can be frustrating, to say the least. We won’t name and shame here, just in case one fine day we get that long-awaited call back. You never know!
We’ve now met with more than 30 MPs from across the Eastern region, with more meetings coming up in the weeks and months ahead.
Many members have reported finding their meeting a useful opportunity to discuss local issues with their MP, get across the views of themselves and their colleagues and ask the MP to take a matter forward on their behalf. But some have also found these meetings challenging and have been surprised at the reaction of their MP.
However the nursing staff felt the meeting went, I know our members will have had a major impact on their MP in talking about how pay restraint has affected the profession and the challenges they face daily on the frontline. Without their assistance, it is unlikely we would have had the opportunity to speak face-to-face with our MPs about the pay campaign and other issues which concern the RCN and our members.
So I’d like to say a big thank you to all our volunteers. For those who have volunteered to meet their MP and are awaiting a response, I promise we’ll keep going until we get an answer one way or another.
And we’re still looking for volunteers to meet MPs in 13 of our constituencies. So if you live in Saffron Walden, Basildon and Billericay, Clacton, Epping Forest, Rochford and Southend East, South Norfolk, Hertsmere, St Albans, Welwyn Hatfield, Luton South, North East Beds, Waveney or West Suffolk – please get in touch by emailing Lyndsay.firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll support you by helping contact your MP and arrange the meeting, provide briefings in advance and, if you would like, arrange for an RCN staff member to attend with you.
Thanks again to everyone who has supported this work. Your help, as always, is greatly appreciated by the RCN Eastern team, and also the wider nursing community whose views you are also helping to get heard.