New MP? It's time to talk

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There’s now less than a week to go until the polls open and election fever will have taken over the airwaves, billboards and street lamps near you. Whilst you might still be deciding who you’re going to vote for, now is the time to think about how your organisation is going to engage with your Member of Parliament (MP) when they take office.

With recent opinion polls suggesting the NHS is one of; if not the top priority for voters, it’s not surprising that the future of health care is a key debating point across all political parties. Regardless of their political persuasion, the MP who is elected in your area will be taking an interest in local NHS organisations so it’s worth being proactive to build a relationship with them.

If a new MP has been elected, it’s a good idea to make contact with them as soon as possible by sending a letter from the Chair or Chief Executive/Accountable Officer of your organisation to congratulate them and suggest a face to face meeting. You could also consider sending them your latest annual report to give them an overview of what your organisation does.

If your MP has held their seat and you already have a good relationship with them, it would still be a nice touch to contact them and offer your congratulations. If you don’t yet have a relationship with them, use this as an opportunity to start building one.

Before your Chair or Chief Executive/Accountable Officer meets the MP you might find it useful to research if they have a special interest in health or if they have campaigned on a particular health issue in the run up to the election. Most prospective parliamentary candidates will have a blog, Facebook page and twitter account as well as media coverage which will give you a flavour of their areas of interest and concern.

The first meeting with a new MP is an excellent opportunity to make them aware of important projects and service changes which may affect their constituents. As my colleague James wrote in his blog about the importance of engaging with politicians, it’s vital to give them timely updates on your plans to avoid them hearing about them from another source, like a local journalist. Don’t wait until the meeting if you think there’s something they need to know urgently –write to them and offer to meet them sooner.

Here at Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit we’re supporting our clients by keeping them abreast of the election results in their area and providing them with an MP engagement toolkit so they can take the first step in contacting their MPs.

You may also find that you have new councillors to engage with as local elections take place next Thursday in some parts of the country. Local councillors are another key stakeholder so having regular meetings with them and keeping them informed is equally as important. Don’t forget to look out for changes to the membership of your local authority’s Health Overview and Scrutiny committee too.

As the elected representatives of your patients and public, your local MP and councillors will be some of your most important and powerful stakeholders so be proactive and make time to think about how you will engage with them to build a successful relationship.

Sarah Flower is a communications and engagement manager for Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit.

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