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General Election Purdah - Advice for Primary Care Networks

Publication date: November 2019

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Humberside LMCs would like to provide advice on the impact of pre-election purdah on PCNs.
Purdah has implications for NHS organisations, including the arm's-length bodies such as NHS England, CQC and NHS Improvement over this period. 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 elections.   Public authorities should avoid situations that may provide opportunities for party political benefit. 

PCNs are not public sector bodies.  A PCN is essentially a contractual joint venture between the member practices. The Cabinet Office guidance on purdah does not formally apply to PCNs since it is aimed at civil servants and the board members and staff of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and other arms’ length bodies. However, the NHS cannot prevent GPs from political activity, and the RCGP has launched its own campaign for GPs to back candidates that will support investment in general practice. Ultimately, if GPs and PCNs decide that they do want to participate in political activity during the pre-election period they are free to do so.

Our advice is however that it would be prudent for PCNs to observe the key principles of the Cabinet Office guidance during the pre-election period. 
•        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 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 that could be deemed party political, 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, 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.

Please contact LMC if you have any questions.

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