Over the last week many of you have been in touch to let us know you have written to your health ministers urging them to keep the good progress towards clinical trial transparency in the draft Clinical Trials Regulation debate. There is more you can do. One of our supporters, Jeannette James has got in touch with her tips for getting the attention of the UK health minister. Her approach of contacting your local politician and getting them to write to the health minister might also be an approach that could work in other countries.

How to get Jeremy Hunt’s attention on AllTrials

This is a guest post by Jeannette James a research psychologist and a supporter of the AllTrials campaign.

Having written to the Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt, as well as signing the AllTrials petition earlier, I thought about what else I might do.  I have many years’ experience of campaigning on numerous matters, mainly concerning developing countries.  It’s important to raise the profile of issues among MPs and, when the issue is being discussed at EU level (as with AllTrials), MEPs too.

One way of drawing attention to AllTrials is to write to your MP, partly to alert them to the issue, but mainly to ask them to write to Jeremy Hunt, enclosing our letter, to ascertain what his views are. This is a ploy to get your letter seen by the Minister, who otherwise is most unlikely to see it – and may not even hear about the matter in question.  Staff, be they advisors or civil servants, have to sift the correspondence of busy Ministers. If you write direct to a Minister the reply, when you eventually get it, will usually be written by someone else. It should, of course, reflect government policy but your letter’s points will probably not have been seen by the Minister unless someone else strongly feels that they should be.

However, if an MP writes to a Minister, that Minister normally replies personally, having at least seen and signed the reply, even if it was drafted by someone else. Many MPs will forward a constituents’ letter to the relevant Minister automatically, especially when they know little about the matter.  But, to be on the safe side, you can ask them to do this.

If you have time, visiting an MP is also very valuable because they are more likely to remember you and, more importantly, the issue and arguments. The essentials can be explained in 5-10 minutes if you go to one of an MP’s surgeries. Whether in person or in a letter it’s worth including an example or simple explanation to elucidate the main issue. Don’t assume MPs will immediately understand why it’s important to publish all trials; they may well need to be persuaded. This short intro to the AllTrials campaign clearly sets out the problem.