CAMPAIGNING & MEDIA RELATIONS
Background briefing paper from CPHVA, MSF Labour Relations, and the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association (CPNA)
Deals on Wheels campaign
For too long NHS staff have subsidised the NHS for the use of their cars, which are an essential tool for doing our work. It is time to end this unfairness. We are seeking:
These issues have all been long standing concerns to which the Department of Health has failed to address with any sense of urgency.
We believe it is time to campaign and lobby to achieve these goals. You can:
This campaign brief is designed to help you to drive our message home and win a better Deals on Wheels for Community Practitioners.
More details from our Web site www.msfcphva.org under the Campaigns section or your local CPHVA, CPNA or MSF representative.
Success stories can be reported in the local media – and this creates added momentum. Success breeds success. Please report any success stories to Shaun Noble/Colin Adkins, the Deals on Wheels campaign, CPHVA/MSF, 40 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UD 0207 7939 7000.
Deals on Wheels: the UK issues
Many members want to know what is being done at UK level to sort out the car issues. Here are the answers.
1. What is being done nationally to sort out parking costs and problems?
Barry Gardiner MP, an MSF member, has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) to draw attention to the time wasted, and costs incurred by community staff in London and other cities. Barry will be leading a delegation to see the relevant Minister, using facts assembled through the 500 member surveyed complied by the CPHVA.
We are seeking free parking badges and an end to parking costs for NHS staff incurred in the course of their work.
2. What about mileage costs?
Mileage costs incurred for mileage on your own cars is fixed nationally by the General Whitley Council. MSF/CPHVA has consistently sought to raise mileage rates for the last couple of years, ever since the AA rate overtook the NHS rates. After two years of seeking to get an increased offer, management finally put forward an ‘interim’ offer on Monday 17th July, coincidentally after the CPHVA launched its campaign.
This demonstrates that pressure from members does have an effect but this must be kept up.
Unfortunately, the increase was for 4p an mile from 29p for Regular User Allowance and 39.8p for Standard User Allowance, well below what we said is necessary. The CPHVA rejected the offer. However, the deal was accepted by other organisations prior to any thorough consultation possibly taking place. We had two concerns.
Firstly, the offer is not large enough to compensate for the rise in petrol prices. Secondly, there are a range of other issues on cars which need sorting out (such as lease car arrangements) which cannot wait any longer and which could slip indefinitely unless we have an assurance that agreeing a mileage rate won’t put off forever the other issues.
Therefore, we need to keep up the pressure to bring forward a further deal in the near future.
Regular User Allowance
3. What about lease car agreements?
These are a mess. When they were introduced in 1988 it was claimed they would be better for staff and employers. In fact they have badly penalised staff in every sense – mileage rates, lump sums, mileage rules, damage incurred and so on.
We are seeking a new framework nationally for these. MSF/CPHVA wants this to be as prescriptive as possible to prevent trusts using such schemes as a money-spinner. It is the key issue we want to link to improvements in mileage rates.
4. What about taxation?
We met with Dawn Primarolo when she was a shadow Treasury Minister and obtained assurances of an early review to consider moving NHS car usage out of the "perk" taxation category. If we all went to work on bikes, the system would soon grind to a halt! She is now the real thing and nothing whatsoever has happened. We have now written to her again.
Campaigning to win
The purpose of campaigning is to make sure that the Government is aware of the expertise and experiences of CPHVA, CPNA and MSF members when they make the decisions that affect our lives. In order to do this we must ensure that as many MPs and employers as possible are aware of the situation and will make ministers who make the decisions aware of their support for our campaign.
When campaigning also be sure to target your message on the people who have the responsibility for the decisions that you are seeking to influence.
The key Ministers are:
Mr Alan Milburn, Secretary of Health, Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS. Mr Milburn has ultimate responsibility for policies on mileage allowances and can encourage employers to introduce fairer lease car arrangements. Mr Milburn can also bring influence to bear on the Treasury to change the tax treatment of cars used by Community Practitioners.
Ms Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General, HM Treasury, Great George Street, Parliament Street, London, SW1P 3AG. Ms Primarolo is responsible for all matters relating to taxation. Whilst a personal letter to Ms Primarolo would be preferable, a campaign postcard is available putting our message across.
Write to your MP
You should write to your MP informing that you are a constituent of theirs (include your address on the letter so they know you live in their constituency). Constituency MPs are a good means by which to bring matters to the attention of the Minister. A MPs postbag is a good barometer of issues affecting his or her constituents. If a MP raises a matter with a Minister than he or she has to receive a reply.
All MPs can be written to at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA. A model letter is attached.
You should use your letter to set out what you wish to lobby them about. This should ensure that any reply offers an opinion on the issue from the MP, thereby allowing us to build up a database of support.
You may wish to continue the campaign by trying to attend one of their constituency surgeries where they meet members of the public about any issue you wish to talk about.
These surgeries happen weekly and are normally advertised in your local paper or town hall. Some MPs operate an appointment system for these surgeries; others just operate a turn-up and queue system.
Fridays are a good day to arrange a meeting with MPs as it is the day they usually spend in their constituencies. Remember, MPs like nothing better than to have their photo in the local paper; being seen to be doing something for constituents/potential voters.
The crucial addition to the lobbying you can provide is the personal dimension. You should always emphasise how the Governments policies (or in this case non-policy!) are affecting you, your family and friends - especially if they have a vote in the MPs constituency.
The use of personal experience will make the MP aware of the issue on a more human level rather than just the figures and the policy. If the MP supports our case then you are giving them ammunition for the case, if they do not support you then you are making them respond on an individual level rather than the abstract political level.
There are a number of means by which your MP can show his support for our campaign.
Please do not forget the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. This are new institutions are often more open than the House of Commons. Although, many of the decisions affecting this issue are made by UK wide institutions, these bodies are beginning to develop their own voice and are a useful means by which pressure can be bought to bear on key decision makers.
The Scottish Parliament, George IV Bridge , Edinburgh, EH99 1SP
The Welsh Assembly, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA
The Northern Ireland Assembly, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
Your employer is responsible for a whole range of policies that affects your ability to use your car to carry out your job.
Lease car or parking policies very often result in community staff subsidising the NHS. They are sometimes discriminatory and are based on hierarchical notions of status rather than clinical needs.
On other areas such as taxation they too can make their views known to the Department of Health or the Treasury. On mileage allowances they will probably seek to keep to any nationally agreed policy on regular user rates but through their employer forums they can apply pressure to modify the agreement to introduce fair compensation for using a car on behalf of the NHS.
They can certainly amend their local lease car agreements to ensure staff are not subsidising the NHS. There are considerable variations in local agreements and these can be re-negotiated.
We are seeking to have the Deals on Wheels campaign raised by the CPHVA, the CPNA and MSF in every employer in the NHS.
Have fun campaigning.
Specimen letter to MPs
Day time telephone/mobile
Joanna Smith MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Dear Ms Smith
DEALS ON WHEELS campaign
I am/we are writing on behalf of the health and community nurses who work for the Essex Community NHS Trust in your Mid-Essex constituency.
The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association and Community Psychiatric Nurses Association are currently running a campaign highlighting the fact that community practitioners are subsidising the NHS to the tune of millions of pounds a year when they use their cars to visit clients.
(Give a good local example of how you are getting a raw deal i.e. very low mileage rates unchanged for years/how much it is costing to fill your car compared with two years ago)
The CPHVA and the CPNA are calling for:
We are seeking a new national agreement to cover these points. A number of MPs have already signed Early Day Motion no: 641 backing our case.
I/we would welcome an early opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues.
Essex Community NHS Trust
Why does the CPHVA/MSF need public relations for its Deals on Wheels campaign?
Community practitioners have a number of ‘audiences’ that it has to address on the issue of cars and the raw deal they are currently receiving. These audiences include:
Each one of these ‘audiences’ has an important part to play in helping the CPHVA, the CPNA and MSF to achieve its goals.
The CPHVA has been carrying out a survey of 500 health visitors to gain the hard facts-and-figures we need to press our case face-to-face with Government ministers. The results should be known at the end of August 2000 and will be made available on the CPHVA web site www.msfcphva.org
Remember - there are two themes to the public relations dimension:
A well PR orchestrated campaign can create the mood music – the background atmosphere - that brings an issue to the forefront of the public mind. Because the profile has been raised, it makes it more difficult for politicians and opinion formers – locally and nationally - to ignore a campaign. Campaigns are staged by people, people have votes and election times come round very quickly.
Your questions answered:
Why does the CPHVA, the CPNA and MSF have to have anything to do with the media?
As has already been stated, the CPHVA, the CPNA and MSF has various audiences that it wishes to influence during the campaign and using the media is one of the most cost effective ways of getting your case across to a wide selection of opinion formers.
As a recipient of this campaign pack, your best route is to contact your local paper/radio station. (BBC local radio would be better from our point of view as they have more ‘talk’ and better resources to cover local issues)
You can either write a press release (see the quick guide at the end of this briefing) or draft a letter to the paper – see the enclosed model letter. Personalise the issue – the media loves human-interest stories. For example, if you are getting 7.4p per mile for your lease car instead of the recommended rate of 29p or you are one of five colleagues who have all had their tyres pierced by nails because of the area they work in, that’s of interest. (Both those examples are true).
Despite everyone knocking their local ‘rag’, a large percentage of the population read their local paper whether it’s the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, the Darlington & Stockton Times or the Redditich and Alcester Standard. The readership is made up of people who have influence in your local community – local councillors, MPs and NHS managers.
What makes news?
News is about the superlatives – the best, the worst; the biggest, the smallest; the first and the last.
It is about things happening which affect people in their daily lives – that’s why the NHS is constantly in the media spotlight. ‘Bad news’ is more likely to be covered than ‘Good News’, although there are many ‘Good News’ stories that are covered on a daily basis e.g. Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday, Cherie Blair’s baby, Royal weddings, lottery winners, and a British sporting success (?).
Media outlets are inundated with organisations/lobby groups/companies trying to gain space for the views – only a minority of press releases make it. The reason that so much effort is expended in a bid to gain coverage is that organisations recognise that the media is crucial for building their profile and promoting their case.
Remember: ‘Give it a spin, or it will end in the bin’
Basically, you are now a sales person. Instead of selling holidays, cars, cosmetics, you are selling ideas for stories – in this case, the Deals on Wheels campaign.
Don’t journalists distort everything you tell them?
Yes and No. Journalists are not your personal propagandists; their job is to provide a balanced report, reflecting both sides of the argument. They will quote, for example, the local NHS trust, which might be diametrically opposed to what you are saying. The story may not appear quite as you envisaged it, but if more than 60 per cent of your message has been reported you are doing well. Remember how difficult it is to get your story covered in the first place.
Which paper or magazine should we aim for?
Every media outlet has it own readership, and set of listeners and viewers. Every outlet has its own news agenda. What The Times covers is different from the local weekly paper, which, in turn, is different from the Nursing Times.
In the case of the Deals on Wheels campaign, you should aim at the local media. The CPHVA/MSF at Bermondsey Street will deal the national and specialist media.
Who should speak to the media?
Having agreed your ‘line’, it is best that one person is appointed as the contact point for the media.
It’s easier for the journalists as they have only one person to chase and they can build up a rapport with that spokesperson over time. Hopefully, mutual trust can develop. Both sides benefit.
It’s better to have only one person delivering the message, as this avoids confusion and misunderstanding.
What should I do if a journalist rings me up?
Again, it depends. It may be non-controversial questions in which case you can comment there and then. However, it could be a more tricky call and, in that case, it would be appropriate to say that you will ring them back as soon as you have checked it out. Don’t be bullied into giving an off-the-cuff quote on something you know nothing about – which can be very dangerous. However, you should also be aware that journalists spend their lives fighting deadlines, so ring them back as quickly as possible.
Never say ‘No comment’. It might give you a false air of self-importance, but usually it looks as if you have something to hide. If it is a difficult situation, use a bland form of words, that appear to say a lot, but are, in reality, sophisticated forms of ‘No Comment’.
For this campaign, you will find that the vast majority of the media will be on your side – you are the ‘underdog’, faceless bureaucrats and remote Government ministers are the ‘enemy’ - that’s the way journalists will view it.
What should I say?
There are usually three main points you wish to get across. It’s better to have several well-thought out points than a shopping list that can lead to a rambling confusion, thus diluting the crux of the message. This is especially true for radio when time is limited and the interviewer may be more interested, unfortunately, in the upcoming traffic report than what you have to say.
Specimen Letter to Editors
Daytime phone number/mobile
Fordham Valley Weekly Clarion,
Letter to the Editor
The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) is currently running a Deals on Wheels campaign highlighting the fact that health visitors and community nurses are subsidising the NHS whenever they use their cars to visit clients.
As a health visitor employed by Fordham Valley Trust, I have a lease car/private car.
It costs me £xxx a year to run out of my own pocket. The mileage rate that I receive is xx.p per mile (which is below the regular user rate recommended by the Whitley Council of 33.5p per mile).
This rate has been unchanged since 1993 – despite giant petrol price hikes and greatly increased costs in running a car. For me, the car is an essential tool of my job – it is not a ‘perk’.
The CPHVA is seeking a new national agreement on mileage rates, lease car arrangements, car taxation and the provision of free parking badges, like GPs, when visiting clients.
At present, hard-pressed health visitors are subsidising the NHS and that’s not fair. I/we am/are asking for your readers support in our campaign.
Ms Joan Smith
Fordham Valley NHS Trust)
Ten easy steps to writing a press release
ENCLOSED IS A CPHVA PRESS RELEASE ON CARS THAT WILL GIVE YOU A TEMPLATE FOR WRITING YOUR OWN PRESS RELEASE.
If you have any problems or need advice, please don’t hesitate to ring me:
Shaun Noble, Professional Communications Officer on 020 7939 7043 or e-mail me on [email protected]
If I am not at my desk, leave a message on my voice mail and I will return your call as soon as possible
Specimen Press Release
HEALTH VISITORS LOBBY EXETER MP ON CAR CAMPAIGN
Health visitors in Exeter are lobbying the city’s MP in a bid to get a better deal when they use their cars on NHS business.
Exeter MP, Ben Bradshaw is being asked to support the Deals on Wheels campaign organised by the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, which is angry that health visitors and community nurses are subsidising the NHS to the tune of millions of pounds a year.
(Insert some local ‘horror’ story such as Trust pays 8p a mile compared to the recommended rate of 29p/ or that it costs £50 to fill up your car compared with £35 in 1997)
Health visitors, who work for South Devon NHS Community Trust, have now written to Mr Bradshaw to explain "the dire situation" and asking for a meeting.
The CPHVA is seeking a new national agreement to cover the car issue and is demanding:
Janet Cook, the CPHVA’s local representative, said: "For too long health visitors in Exeter have been subsiding the NHS out of their own pockets. The recent giant hikes in petrol tax were the last straw."
NOTE TO NEWS EDITORS
For further information, please contact:
Janet Cook 01278 386101
Shaun Noble Press Officer (020) 7939 7043, mobile 0468 69 39 40
CPHVA press releases can be seen on the CPHVA web site: www.msfcphva.org
The CPHVA is an autonomous professional section of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union. The CPHVA represents 18,000 health visitors, school nurses, practice nurses and registered nurses working in the community in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
MSF (Manfacturing, Science and Finance) Health Section