BEST OF HEATLH: Purdah and healthcare

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THIS week I’m writing about purdah. Some of you may recall I did the same a few years ago.

It’s all to do with our democratic process and elections be they local or national.

As you will probably be aware, the next General Election will take place this year on May 7.

The formal start of the pre-election period, commonly known as electoral, “Purdah” will begin on March 30 until the day following the election. Purdah is the term used to describe the period between the time the election is announced and the date the election is held.

You may be wondering why a doctor is telling you about the General Election.

Well during these weeks, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG (along with other public sector bodies) will be restricted as to what communication and engagement activity we can undertake.

Formal consultation, public events and high profile communications activity is a ‘no no’ and cannot be undertaken. We also can’t communicate through this period with Hartlepool Councillors, including Overview and Scrutiny Committees, or with MPs/political candidates.

The only information that we will be able to be distributed during this time is that which is essential to ensure continuity of patient care during these weeks and general health promotion information.

The six golden rules during Purdah are:

•No publicity will be given to matters which are politically controversial.

•The general presumption will be that no references will be made to individual politicians in press releases (except where there is a valid emergency as set out below).

•Great caution will be exercised before undertaking any significant media exercise unless it can be demonstrated that this was included in the forward diary before the election was called.

•No photographs of candidates in the election will be issued.

•Before any request for council photographs and other materials is considered, enquiries will be made as to the use to which they are to be put and an appropriate restriction on use imposed if supplied.

•The position of Mayor as the figurehead of the authority is different and material will be issued, providing it is not of a political nature.

So information like last week’s column about ovarian cancer can still be passed on, but health things that might be considered politically sensitive like prescription charges will be avoided in my columns for the next few weeks.

But there will be plenty of interesting general health information to give you until after the election.