Meeting with your elected representatives is an effective way of persuading and influencing them to act. The more we speak to them about the issues facing those with ovarian cancer and the need for action, the greater the chance of change.
Elected representatives can influence their party and governments, from asking your questions to speaking to ministers. We know that MPs, MSPs, MLAs and MSs find it helpful to speak to their constituents about their concerns and what matters to them.
Because of the pandemic, elected representatives have adapted the way they’re carrying out surgeries, which are sessions for constituents to discuss issues with them. Some are conducting surgeries virtually or on the phone.
How to meet with your elected representatives
Our step-by-step guide is designed to take you through how to set up a meeting, what to talk about and what to do after you've had your meeting.
Please let us know if you plan on visiting your representative. We can provide you with support, guidance and local statistics to make sure your meeting has the biggest possible impact. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Step 1: find your representatives
You can find out who your representatives are and how to contact them online:
If you live in Scotland or Wales, your constituency MSP or MS may be best to approach first unless you think one of your regional representatives will be more supportive or influential. If you live in Northern Ireland, you may wish to approach all of your MLAs or only those you think will be more supportive or influential.
- Step 2: arrange an appointment
The best way to find out your representative’s surgery arrangements is to contact their office. They will be able to give you more information and tell you how to set up a meeting. There may also be information on your elected representative’s website. Tell them that you would like to discuss the issues facing women with ovarian cancer because of the pandemic and some of the things they could do to help.
You may be asked to choose how you want the meeting to be conducted, for example over Zoom, Skype, another online platform or by phone. If you need help setting up a video call, let us know: email@example.com.
It may be that your representatives aren't holding surgeries at the moment. If this is the case, you can request their office contacts you once surgeries resume.
Campaigning top tip – if you’ve contacted your representative about a meeting and they haven’t replied, then follow-up by calling their office or resending your original email.
- Step 3: prepare for the meeting
Preparation is important. Write down the key points you want to speak about in the meeting and any key actions for your representative to take forward. You don’t have to be an expert, but it’s good to have a grasp of some of the issues before the meeting.
We suggest you talk about:
- Why you’re passionate about campaigning on ovarian cancer. If you or someone you know has ovarian cancer, share this with your representative if you feel comfortable doing so. This will be powerful, compelling and help bring the issue to life so they know exactly the challenges faced by women with ovarian cancer.
- Over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK. Even before the pandemic, too few women were being diagnosed at an early stage (I or II) when chance of survival is greatest. Find stats to mention that apply to your country [PDF].
- The pandemic's impact on GP referrals. During the pandemic, there’s been a sharp drop in urgent cancer referrals made by GPs. Many women are worried about visiting their GP with symptoms in case they catch the virus, and for fear of overburdening the GP.
- The pandemic's impact on treatment. Many women have had their treatment for ovarian cancer disrupted because of the pandemic. In particular, many women have been unable to access surgery.
- The pandemic's impact on support. Coronavirus has had a significant impact on support available to women with ovarian cancer at a time when many have felt isolated and worried about what the future may hold.
- What needs to happen now. Urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that diagnosis, treatment and support are returned to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible.
To help with your preparation, try to familiarise yourself with our latest report: ‘Voices of women with ovarian cancer: the coronavirus pandemic and its impact’ [PDF]. Pick out anything you think will be worth mentioning. It contains some useful stats as well as stories from women who've been affected.
It’s vital that elected representatives are presented with solutions to return diagnosis, treatment and support to pre-pandemic levels. Try to mention the recommendations we’re putting forward.
Key actions for your representatives
The key actions you could ask elected representatives to do are:
- Write to the health minister about our report on the impact of the pandemic asking them to implement the recommendations and/or table a written parliamentary question.
- If they haven’t already done so, ask them to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer on their social media. Along with a placard which displays the symptoms [PDF], ask them to post the following on social media:
Because of the #coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a drop in the number of women contacting their GP worried they might have symptoms of #OvarianCancer. That’s why I’m joining @TargetOvarian to encourage women to get in touch with their GP if they think something is wrong.
- Ask their permission to take a screenshot/photo during the meeting. When you’ve got a picture, you can then post it on social media and tag your elected representative. Please also share it with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may find it helpful to run through what you want to say in the meeting with a family member or friend. This could help you identify other things to mention and refine how to phrase certain points.
Campaigning top tip – elected representatives are always keen to hear about your personal experiences. When preparing for your meeting, keep this in mind and think about what would be powerful to share.
- Step 4: actions during the meeting
- Try to get across your story, the key points you’ve noted down and the key actions for them to take away. Don’t worry if you forget anything as you can follow-up with an email after the meeting.
- Don’t worry if your representative asks a question you can’t answer. You can say you’re not an expert and that you can find out and get back to them.
- Keep the discussion friendly. This will help achieve results by building a good relationship with your elected representative.
- When the meeting is nearing its end, confirm agreed key actions and thank your representative for their time.
- Step 5: actions after the meeting
Send an email to your representative thanking them for the meeting as well as summarising the key points you raised and the key actions that were agreed. Also attach a copy of our report on the impact of coronavirus [PDF].
If you don’t hear from them for a few weeks, you could send another email asking whether they have carried out what they agreed to do. To keep them engaged, you could send them information whenever Target Ovarian Cancer launches a new campaign, report or action. If you’re signed up as one of our campaigners, you’ll be kept up to date on this.
Always remember that your MPs, MSPs, MLAs and MSs have been elected to represent you. Don’t ever feel like you’re bothering them or wasting their time. They are there to listen to your views and act on your behalf.
Christine met with one of her Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to talk about the impact the pandemic has had on diagnosis, treatment and support. In the meeting, she managed to secure a commitment from her MSP to act on ovarian cancer.
I contacted the MSP’s office to arrange a meeting and spent some time beforehand preparing a list of points I wanted to say. I shared my story and some of the things I wanted to see change, particularly greater awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer in Scotland and the need for an awareness campaign. In spite of feeling a bit nervous about it, we ended up having a lovely and productive chat. She was very helpful.