What is policy? It’s a good question and one that I get asked a lot when I tell people I what I do at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).
The Oxford dictionary defines policy as “a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual”. In practice, this means that a policy team decides how their organisation would like to change the area they work in.
The RCP is a professional body for doctors, so we use what our members tell us to develop evidence-based ideas about how we would like to change healthcare in the UK. For example, what we would like the NHS workforce to look like in two years.
Then we make recommendations on how we can achieve our aim and begin implementing campaigns to put them into action. Campaigns can take many different forms depending on what you’re asking for, who your campaign is aimed at, and who you’re campaigning for.
At the RCP, releasing reports like Talking About Dying gives doctors practical tips and get covered in the media, so we offer help to our members and get our message out there at the same time.
We also release reports on the state of the sector, like our recent winter poll which revealed over half of doctors who responded, are worried or very worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care this winter. This was widely covered in the media and was even mentioned in parliament!
Other ways involve more direct interaction with the government, such as our annual Peers Breakfast where members of the House of Lords come to the RCP to learn about how they can help solve problems facing the NHS so that they can act as advocates on our behalf in Westminster or the Senedd (in Wales).
Hopefully, all these actions add up to real change that will improve healthcare in the UK for everyone.
So far as part of my job as a graduate policy adviser, apart from learning a lot about the convoluted structure of the NHS, I have sent countless letters to politicians, attended meetings with MPs in Westminster and written responses to government consultations. It’s a job where every day is different and it can be really exciting.
Most organisations will have their own policy teams and their own way of campaigning. Do you know how your organisation does policy? Or, if you’re applying to CharityWorks, is policy an area you might be interested in working in?
Words by Rhona Mackay, who is the Graduate Trainee Policy Adviser at RCP.