Writing Letters – tips and ideas

I got this email the other week:

Hi Ruth

I have been reading your blog and loving it, well done, I’m not sure how you have the time to do everything?!

I have a bundle of postcards to go to a couple of Sussex PCTs, I thought that a covering letter would be a good idea to help them ‘get it’. Have you done this and if so what do you think are the important points to get across to them?

Many thanks Louise

And I responded with a few ideas which I hope to share with you, plus a letter I sent to my MP a few months ago which may illustrate the technique.

The postcard campaign is a really effective and easy way of making our concerns clear to policymakers in the health service and politics. To learn more go to www.saveindependentmidwifery.org

I can tell you what I would write and in what style but in the end you have to be comfortable with what you are writing.

Say clearly in the first three lines what your letter is about (this particularly important if it is being copied to the media as they will only read the first 3 lines to see if the rest is worth reading)

Using the postcards I think you need to explain/expand on the message of the postcards – that we are ‘only’ asking for them to implement the promises of ‘maternity matters’ – particularly in regard to continuity of midwfery care and homebirth ( or whatever your pigeon is).

Then what I do is point out the current situation in Bradford in relation to these demands – for instance that that are too many women seeing a different midwfe at each appointment, the Trust admits that a community midwife in Bradford has 170 women per year – an impossible number. Women are regularly having homebirths turned down simply due to staffing issues.

Then you can basically reiterate the point on the postcard which says women having one mother one midwfe care have increased likelihood of a normal birth, higher breastfeeding rates etc etc. And research has shown that women are half as likely to have a CS if the book for a homebirth.

And that is it! Letter should not be more than a page and half, if it squeezes on to one page all the better. Do copy it to your MP or even all the MPs in the PCT district – if you are going to the effort of writing a letter you might as well make the biggest splash you can. I think it might be worth copying to Ann Kean MP. As a midwife you may not be comfortable about copying to the local paper /media – but If you want to go the whole hog then that is the way to go.

It maybe that your letter will open doors – but don’t be disappointed if you are stone-walled or even given a bit of a rough time. Some places are not yet ready to hear and respond to user feedback but just doing it anyway can make an impact even if you are unaware of it. That is why copying it to your MP is good – it provides some kind of protection to you if they are nasty and it gives you another outlet for your concerns and demands – a higher autheority as it were. Even if I have not put letters directly into the press I regularly forward my latest letter to the Chief Exec to journalists and others in key positions just to keep the whole thing rolling.

So good luck with your letter writing and don’t forget that if we don’t start asking for what we want and complaining if we don’t get it, there is no chance we will ahve the maternity care we want.

All the best
Another stroppy woman

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