2017 local and general elections: 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 communications activity of public bodies, civil servants and local government officials are put in place. 

Ahead of the local elections being held on Thursday 4 May, purdah came into force on Thursday 13 April.

However, with a snap general election now taking place on 8 June, the purdah period for this election will begin on Saturday 22 April.

Purdah has implications for NHS organisations, including the arm's-length bodies such as NHS England, Care Quality Commission and NHS Improvement over this period.

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, or if you have any questions, always refer to Cabinet Office guidance

What does it mean for the NHS?

During these periods, communications either in the form of announcements or activities by NHS organisations should be avoided if they could influence, or be regarded as influencing, the outcome of local elections or the referendum.  


  • 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 your local prospective councillors/local political parties/campaign groups 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 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 these two periods of purdah. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the official guidance from the Cabinet Office.


  • 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, market research and public rallies, and producing election materials or canvassing. 
  • Be selective if you are inviting local prospective councillors/political parties/campaign groups 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 local candidates/political parties 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 these two periods of purdah. 

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