Politicians from all parties love to be seen posing for photographs as they drink tea with dedicated nurses or confer with wise doctors in Britain’s hospitals. But those aspiring to high office won’t be welcome at one North London hospital in the run up to next year’s general election.
Health bosses at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead have banned politicians for using the site “for political ends” after a report found visiting parliamentary candidates had a “significant impact” on the NHS trust’s workload during the 2005 election campaign.
Next year politicians will be banned from kissing new-born babies and staging photo ops at the hospital for two months before the general election in May, according to the Camden New Journal.
Official purdah rules already bar hospitals and schools, as well as many other public institutions and bodies, from offering favourable publicity before election but the Royal Free Hospital wants to have a cast-iron strategy as “temperatures can become raised during election campaigns”.
The report added: “A candidate could arrive unannounced at one of our hospitals and, told what the policy was, seek publicity for the fact that s/he had been ‘refused entry’ to a public building.”
Hospitals can prove tricky for politicians even outside the campaign trail though. In 2011 a surgeon, David Nunn, destroyed a carefully orchestrated photo call for David Cameron and Nick Clegg at Guy’s Hospital in London. In an angry televised outburst he attacked the politicians’ aides and camera crew for not having their sleeves up against hygiene regulations, but was reportedly placed on gardening leave by the following week.
A spokesperson for the hospital said: “This was a renewal of an existing policy put in place in 2009 in order to ensure the trust abides by Cabinet Office guidance to the civil service regarding the pre-election period known as “purdah” by preventing it from being used for political ends.
“Pre-election guidance states that a candidate’s request to visit a particular section of the trust may be granted only if the same opportunity is granted to all rival candidates, which could potentially cause significant disruption to the service.
“A policy was therefore put in place by the hospital board to safeguard the trust’s political impartiality while minimising disruption and ensuring the smooth running of our hospital services.”Reuse content