Pre-election period: dos and don'ts for the NHS

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What and when is purdah?

‘Purdah’ is the period shortly before an election or referendum when specific restrictions on the activity of public bodies, civil servants and local government officials are put in place.

General Election, 12 December 2019

Parliament was dissolved at 00.01 on Wednesday 6 November in preparation for a General Election on 12 December 2019. Purdah (or the 'pre-election period') commences in line with the dissolution of Parliament and remains in place until a new government is formed following the outcome of the General Election on 12 December.
Ahead of the General Election on Thursday 12 December 2019, purdah will come into force on Wednesday 6 November 2019.

What does it mean for the NHS?

Purdah has implications for NHS organisations, including the arm's-length bodies.
During purdah, communications in the form of either announcements or activities by NHS organisations should be avoided if they could influence, or be regarded as influencing, the outcome of elections.

With health and care issues high on both the political and public agenda, here are our hints and tips for any communications activity during purdah.

If in doubt, always refer to Cabinet Office guidance (PDF).

Do

  • Confine your communication activities and announcements to those necessary for the safety and quality of patient care.
  • Consider whether you will allow visits from all parliamentary candidates/political parties/campaign groups/other politicians and what format they will take. It is your decision whether to invite them or not. If you do, remember to keep your policy around visits consistent and impartial.
  • Keep any communications with local candidates/political parties/campaign groups/other politicians to a factual and apolitical basis – apply the same approach to any communications with the media and in the public sphere.
  • Continue to conduct normal business and adhere to good governance and regulation.
  • Continue to plan campaigns post purdah.
  • Familiarise yourself with the official guidance from the Cabinet Office.

Don't

  • Undertake any activity that could be considered politically controversial or influential, or could give rise to criticism that public resources are being used for party political/campaigning purposes. For example, allowing certain public awareness activities that could be deemed party political, market research and public rallies, and producing election materials or canvassing.
  • Be selective if you are inviting local parliamentary candidates/political parties/campaign groups/other politicians to your premises – invitations should be sent to all or none.
  • Allow party political meetings to take place on your organisation’s premises.
  • Allow visits by parliamentary candidates/political parties, national and local politicians or campaign groups to your organisation to interrupt services or care for patients – make sure your staff are aware of any visits in advance.
  • Launch large-scale PR campaigns during this period.

If you have any questions or need further information, please refer to Cabinet Office guidance (PDF).

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