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How to campaign against funding cuts: Get politicians to fight your corner

In the fourth of five articles, Dr Naomi Beer of the Jubilee Street Practice describes how to ask MPs and local councillors to defend your practice from the threat of closure

We wrote to our two local MPs, Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali. After Mr Fitzpatrick saw the article in The Guardian and discussed the issues with a local Labour councillor, he offered to raise parliamentary questions about our situation. This is done by ballot, but luckily, his was chosen. He and Ms Ali then had the opportunity to question health minister Dr Dan Poulter directly in a televised debate. At this debate, Mr Fitzpatrick also secured a meeting with health minister Earl Howe. We attended that meeting on his invitation, and also went to a meeting of the House of Commons Health Committee where NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was appearing for the first time. We handed him our position paper with a request that he review it and the MPIG funding decision.

If you know a local councillor in the same party as the MP, they are usually a little more approachable and will hopefully offer to raise your situation with the MP on your behalf.

That said, there has been an awful lot more publicity around the issue recently so a direct approach to the MP should now ensure a response, especially if a few GPs put in a request for a meeting together. Look to see if Pulse has already contacted your MP at pulsetoday.co.uk/campaign.

If an MP is raising a question in the House of Commons on your behalf, they will want a full briefing about what threats you’re facing, as well as suggestions of what questions to raise. After that, keep them on the mailing list as a courtesy.

You can also campaign at a local as well as a national level. Although you cannot take part in debates and discussions at county council meetings, you can ask to make a presentation on any issue that is within its ‘terms of reference’. You may also make a presentation to any committee or panel of the council, to cabinet or when individual cabinet members make decisions, on your own or as part of a group. This is known as making a ‘deputation’.

A deputation can comprise up to four people and each of them may take part. Write to the chief executive stating the meeting you want to attend and the issue you would like to cover. You usually have 10 minutes to state your case and raise a question. You can also propose a motion that the council members can debate and decide to take up if they deem it important enough, which ensures they will take action. For example, the motion may move the council to take action to examine the impact of GP funding cuts on local health services and to request a meeting with the health secretary.

We made a presentation at a local council meeting and proposed a motion. Our presentation informed local councillors of the issues and the impact that cuts might have on their constituents. After the deputation we kept all councillors informed of the actions we were taking and gave them the opportunity to join rallies and marches.

A local mayor also has the right to take up any matter they choose, even without a deputation. We approached the mayor of Tower Hamlets directly to inform him of the issues and he wrote to the health secretary.

You can also write directly to the local health scrutiny committee to inform them of local problems. The more GPs are involved in this letter, the more they can see that constituents are affected and the more they are likely to listen.

We are due to have a separate meeting with local councillors soon to decide on what further co-ordinated action we can take together.

Dr Naomi Beer is a GP in Tower Hamlets, east London

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