Following the pre-budget report by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no one can be in any doubt that a general election is just around the corner. The NHS will be a key battleground for all political parties and, with this in mind, we are pleased to publish our firm’s key pointers for any communications policy you are thinking of developing – to help you avoid the bear traps, that might compromise your trust’s political impartiality.

Should you want help developing more detailed guidance we would be happy to advise you. Alternatively, we would be happy to provide you with information about all our communications services. We are healthcare communications specialists that have worked with some of the best known names in the sector.

Five tips for Communication Managers during a General Election campaign

1 The Board:

Ensure your Board has an Elections’ Policy in place

Until the dissolution of Parliament MPs have a constitutional right to represent their constituents and should be accorded normal access to the NHS. Once Parliament is dissolved these rights disappear and all candidates are on the same footing. The key is to avoid being accused of discriminating against a candidate and remain politically impartial during a general election campaign.

2 Staff:

NHS employees are free to express their political views but should not do so on NHS premises or use NHS equipment. Neither should they express views that impact on the impartiality of the NHS. Employees engaged on national pay and conditions can be granted special leave of absence (paid or unpaid) during the campaign to stand for election. Boards and Non-Executives, under the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 (Amended) and the Disqualification Act 1975, are prohibited from standing for election and would have to resign before presenting their nomination to the returning officer.

3 Visits:

Campaign visits are at the discretion of the Board. Broadly they are usually allowed and must be even handed and not disruptive. Posters and stickers should not be allowed. Election meetings should not be on NHS premises. Photographs should not be taken showing identifiable patients without their consent, obtained in advance and, even better, in writing. Similarly filming of patients by TV crews, where patients are identifiable, also requires the completion of patient consent form before filming.

4 Information:

Factual information should be made available in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FoI), promptly and in any event within 20 days. Pre-existing arrangements for Board meetings should continue, but public meetings are better avoided.

5 Records

Record all information provided to the candidates. It is not necessary to provide all candidates with the answers provided to one candidate’s questions. Records should be available for inspection by the Communications Governance Committee or the Board.

Media enquiries should be limited to provision of facts and the FoI. National policy enquires should be dealt with by the DH. Department of Health’s Election Guidance
has not been updated since 2001 but will almost certainly be revisited, although little is likely to change. View the present guidance HERE.

For communication strategy planning, media training, communications audits and election planning contact GBCPR now РEmail: info@gbcpr.co.uk