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Purdah – guidance for professionals


Blog headlines

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

  • Nothing left to shift: fears grow over NHS paradigm supply
    12 March 2020

    The government has issued a stark warning that stocks of paradigms and other basic supplies could soon run out if NHS managers continue panic-buying.

  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
    27 February 2020

    Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

  • National log-in reset will change everything
    9 January 2020

    This week the Department of Health and Social Care announced a £40m investment to make it easier to log-in to NHS computers. It’s a laudable aim, akin to fitting a keyless entry system to a Ford Anglia to make it go faster.

  • Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020
    3 January 2020

    NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

  • My amazing Twitter year – by Matt Hancock
    20 December 2019

    It's been a fantastic year on social media for the secretary of state for health and the other thing. Here it is in very nearly his own words

  • Sustainability and transformation parties: mandatory guidance
    5 December 2019

    As Christmas fast approaches, system leaders are getting ready for so-called sustainability and transformation parties, the highlight of the year for those who enjoy kinky integration with strangers.

  • All the latest health policy news from the general **** campaign
    29 November 2019

    Because purdah is still in force, this week’s **** has been heavily redacted. Here are the main parties’ plans for government as set out in their manifestos. A full unexpurgated version can be obtained from **** Party HQ.

  • New outfit more splendidly integrated than ever
    21 November 2019

    The emperor has announced plans for yet another new outfit, amid claims that this one will be even more splendid than the last.

  • Purdah – guidance for professionals
    15 November 2019

    After Christmas and the HSJ Awards, purdah is Martin Plackard’s favourite time of year.

  • Tools honoured in Blithering awards
    8 November 2019

    The Blithering Celebrating Success Awards are always eagerly anticipated. Every November, they recognise the commitment and dedication of people who put other people at the heart of everything they do before going the extra mile in their shoes. They also reflect the passionate belief of the organisers, Spume Media, in an awards-led approach to healthcare improvement science.

  • Provisional findings of the interim report
    31 October 2019

    The programme delivery group at One Blithering, the emergent NHS Blithering integrated care system, has published an interim report containing the provisional findings of a year-long strategic review.

  • Toast
    25 October 2019

    "The biggest complaint about the NHS which is beloved by everyone is about the food, and the biggest complaint about the food is about the lack of toast.”

  • Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power
    17 October 2019

    In which no one can find Plackard's signposting event, an old foe returns from his past and Sir Trevor Longstay loses interest in compassion

  • Sir Trevor defends revolving door
    4 October 2019

    Sir Trevor Longstay has hit out at proposals designed to make it harder for failed NHS directors to get new jobs with no questions asked.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Purdah – guidance for professionals

After Christmas and the HSJ Awards, purdah is Martin Plackard’s favourite time of year.

Like his fellow communications professionals up and down the country, NHS Blithering’s director of integrated communications and knowledge services relishes the challenges that accompany the virtual news blackout at election time.

Purdah is one of the few occasions when the communications people feel as if they are in charge. They no longer need to go cap in hand to senior management to sign off the latest report or jump through hoops to get their social media campaigns approved. All such activity is put on hold until after the election.

For five weeks, hundreds of Plackards have a brief respite from explaining to hundreds of Sir Trevor Longstays why it’s necessary to keep staff informed and why even the public sometimes need to be told what’s going on. During purdah, this is even less necessary or desirable than ever.

Here are Plackard’s simple rules for staying safe in purdah.

  1. Don’t announce or comment upon policies or spending plans. This includes anything that could be construed as an attempt to influence voters or to favour one political party over another, such as the reconfiguration of hospital catering services or the formation of a new over-65s walking club by a local GP surgery. If in doubt, say nothing. Use the time you would have spent reaching out to stakeholders to create some some new infographics or planning your next suite of resources.
  2. If you really must communicate, stick to advice about flu jabs, staying warm, moderate alcohol consumption, responsible use of antibiotics, taking exercise and healthy eating.
  3. The public will continue to rely on CCG Twitter feeds for weather alerts just as they do the rest of the year, but take particular care to stay politically neutral. Feel free to use the following example as a template for your news on social media:

    It’s going to be another wet day in Blithering. Remember to take an umbrella if you’re going out. If you do get wet, think twice before going to A&E. Your local GP will have towels or will be able to refer you to a more appropriate local service #SocialPrescribing #DrierTogether

  4. It’s safe to talk about subjects where there is little or no risk of getting tripped up by details or facts, such as sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs). Do not imply that these are legal entities with formal powers or that they may exist at some point in future. If you mention the ICS, restrict your comments to evolving governance arrangements and possible enhanced scrutiny roles for health and wellbeing boards. This should put an end to any further interest in the topic. In the unlikely event that your STP/ICS is doing anything apart from holding meetings, do not comment except to say that you are working towards a target operating model for strategic commissioning, that there are exciting opportunities for working as a system and that engagement with local authority partners is going well.       
  5. Do not comment on GP shortages, missed A&E targets or lengthening waiting lists in detail. Defer instead to generalities such as, “primary care networks will sort that out” or “everything will soon be fine, as we said in the NHS Long Term Plan”.

Apolitical editor: Julian Patterson


mike etkind
mike etkind says:
Nov 16, 2019 11:21 PM

So true. My ICP cancelled a monthly meeting they have with the voluntary sector and patient reps for purdah reasons saying "We have been advised to cancel this meeting based on the agenda we had planned". Who knows what earth-shattering issue was single-handedly going to upset the political balance of power in my area??! Or even persuade a single voter to change their mind?! The last minutes of the now [intended-to-be] monthly meeting of these meetings published on their website were for May [2019]...