Dr Tim Crocker-Buqué

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights"

Alma Mata at the Royal College of Physicians

Global Health: Developing Leaders

Policy and Politicians – How to Engage

Alma Mata hosted its 3rd Global Health: Developing Leaders event at the Royal College of Physicians on 26th April. For those of who who weren’t able to make it I’ve put together a brief summary of the main points raised by the speakers in what was an interesting, informative and lively evening. Around 70 doctors and students attended.

The first speaker of the evening was Lisa Cunningham, Senior Public Affairs & PR Officer at the RCP. The focus of her talk was on how the RCP had gone about “influencing change” and lobbying with respect to the Health and Social Care Bill (as it was) and Act (as it now is) and detailed the lessons she had learned during the process. Lisa highlighted 5 main areas:

  1. Objectives: ensuring that at the outset of a lobbying process you are sure that you have specific objectives and a defined change in mind.
  2. Messages: tailoring your message to parliamentarians in a way that will persuade them it’s beneficial focusing specifxally on how that message will be delivered.
  3. Audience: defining the difference between the decision makers (politicians, civil servants, and select committee members) and the decision shapers (stakeholders, media and the public), and ensuring your approach works for the group you’re targeting.
  4. Delivery: balancing behind the scenes negotiation and public media commentary. Sometimes the most successful campaigns are the ones you don’t see.
  5. Evaluation: ensuring that there a progress reports during the process, as well as a full evaluation afterwards.

Her key message was “tailor your message, learn from what you do, and stay positive”.

Next up was Andrew Jones, Senior Partnerships Manager at the Tropical Health Education TrustHe initially discussed the public perception of lobbying, and that often it is associated with large companies, large amounts of money and suspicious motives. However he made the argument that charities have the power to influence great social change through the lobbying process and argued that it is a legitimate part of the democratic process. In 2007 the lobbying industry in the UK was worth £1.49bn and employed 14,000 people.

Andrew went on to highlight some points for individual lobbyists to consider during the lobbying process:

  • Ensure you know your subject
  • Research your subject thoroughly
  • Why is it important?
  • Discuss with other and work with like-minded people.
  • Prepare to be challenged hard.

He discussed the challenges facing THET as it campaigns for change in the landscape of volunteering within the NHS, to encourage and support to make a difference overseas. However he also cautioned about lobbying in other countries, where one health minister described his role as “the minister for expatriates with good ideas.”

Finally we heard from Lord Nigel Crisp, crossbench peer and Chair of Sightsavers International. He discussed his experience of policy implementation when Chief Executive of the NHS, including evaluating whether ideas are practical and how sometimes the formation of policy does not necessarily mean anything will happen! He advocated a simple model of policy implementation from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, which requires 3 areas of consideration:

  • Will – the importance of building the will to implement a policy amongst those directly affected.
  • Idea – ensuring the best idea for the policy change is developed.
  • Execution – developing a plan of how to implement the policy.

Lord Crisp went on to discuss 4 areas of policy change he had been involved with:

  1. Myocardial Infarction: How thrombolysis was shown to save lives in the incidence of acute MI, but the availability of treatment was surprisingly sparse.  Appointing a well respected clinician and setting targets from thrombolysis helped significantly in rolling this out, as well as dealing with the practicalities of this intervention.
  2. Waiting lists: Although waiting list times are relatively reasonable at the moment, this has not always been the case. He highlighted that during his tenure as CEO of the NHS waiting lists were a significant problem. He argued that the “threat” of the private sector coming into the NHS in the form of Independent Sector Treatment Centres had the effect of bringing down waiting times, without actually doing much of the clinical work.
  3. Smoking: as an example of multiple stakeholders collaborating together over a long period of time to create a change in legislation for the public benefit.
  4. River blindness: through his work with Sightsavers he discussed how to have an impact on policy which is tailored towards people living in poverty, without access to lobbying capabilities or a political voice. This particularly focused on building will amongst people with influence.

A brief Q&A session followed, with questions on how to manage the opinions of multiple stakeholders during a campaign; the benefits of sending people out to work in poor countries; further details of Lord Crisp’s point about the introduction of competition into the NHS and the work of THET on the provision of medical equipment.

We hope you can join us at the next event – please watch http://www.almamata.tumblr.com for further infomation!


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This entry was posted on 02/05/2012 by in Global Health.
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