Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature General Election 2019

Purdah rules shouldn’t stop NHS doctors speaking out

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 27 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6679
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. journalist, London
  1. Ingrid_torjesen{at}

Voters want to know what healthcare professionals think of policy proposals, says Ingrid Torjesen, and there’s nothing to stop them expressing personal views

Some NHS trusts have been accused of overzealously applying the “purdah” rules that aim to ensure the political neutrality of government and public organisations ahead of elections. Some have barred NHS staff from expressing their own personal political views on social media.1

Alastair McLellan, editor of the Health Service Journal, tweeted that an NHS source had “been told not to ‘like’ tweets because of purdah.”2 The Guardian reported several examples, including the Scottish ambulance service, whose staff had been told, “If you mention that you work for the Scottish ambulance service on your personal social media channels, you cannot get involved in any online activity, debate or discussion which is political in nature.”1

During purdah, between an election announcement and polling day, government departments, civil servants, and public bodies are restricted from doing anything that could be seen to affect the result of the …

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