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Purdah – guidance for professionals


Blog headlines

  • 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.

  • The Blithering ICS newsletter
    26 September 2019

    Every month, the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Blithering ICS, All of Us Blithering Together, publishes a strategic briefing for stakeholders.

  • Is obeying the law bad for your health?
    13 September 2019

    (With apologies to Private Eye’s A Doctor)

  • The innovation greenhouse
    5 September 2019

    Faced with ordinary problems that they cannot solve – lack of funds, staff shortages, rising demand, falling morale (you know the ones) – our leaders propose extraordinary solutions.

  • The inclusivity summit
    15 August 2019

    As ever, Sir Trevor Longstay knew exactly what he wanted. “This has to be an exclusive event. I want all the right people there – and a decent lunch. See to it Plackard,” he said.

  • Old Matt, new Matt: Mr Hancock’s diary
    8 August 2019

    Proud to be in Boris’s cabinet but a bit peeved to be back at Health and the Other Thing. BJ hinted at the Home Office or the Foreign Office but I gather he said that to everyone.

  • The people's druggist
    1 August 2019

    The NHS is to recruit more than 1000 social apothecaries to work in primary care networks.

  • NHS Frameworx promises 'relentless focus on tools'
    25 July 2019

    NHS England and Improvement has created NHS Frameworx, a semi-autonomous delivery unit for toolkit innovation and best practice.

  • Plackard’s guide to impactful messaging as part of the NHS Long Term Plan
    19 July 2019

    What are you doing to implement the NHS Long Term Plan in your area? You should by now be talking about it in everything you do. Impactful communications is the key to delivery – and volume is the key to achieving impact. This toolkit and comprehensive suite of accompanying resources, by the NHS’s leading strategic communicator, Martin Plackard, aims to help others to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan’s central message that the plan is working.

  • Blithering Stakeholder News
    12 July 2019

    All the latest BS news from the country’s most challenged health economy. In this edition we cover the progress of an IT project under the personal direction of Sir Trevor Longstay, plus an update on the hospital's financial improvement plan and exciting news from the patient experience programme

  • Martin Plackard’s implementation framework
    5 July 2019

    This week, NHS Blithering's communications supremo Martin Plackard, looks forward to delivering the commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan. But first he has to reassure Sir Trevor Longstay, head of the Blithering STP, that the newly published NHS England Implementation Framework leaves plenty of scope for local determination

  • Make time for values
    21 June 2019

    Most of us would like to be more values-based, but finding the time can be tricky.

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]...