Guidance on political engagement

for RCPsych members, Trustees, patient and carer representatives and staff

Background information

The next UK general election will take place on Thursday 4 July 2024. This provides us with the perfect opportunity to help the main political parties understand the positive difference the next government can make to mental healthcare.

The College has a UK Manifesto Preventing mental illness: Our manifesto for the next UK general election which we are promoting to key political stakeholders in the run up to the general election. This political engagement activity is being co-ordinated and led by the College’s Strategic Communications Department.

The pre-election period began on 25 May as set out in the Government’s 2024 election guidance. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is bound by codes and laws that limit our influencing activity during this period. It is still possible for activities to happen, but they must be within the law.

The guiding principle of charity law in terms of elections is that charities must be, and must be seen to be, independent from party politics (not affiliated to any one party). Additionally, charity campaigns must not influence voter intention (who to vote for) either directly or indirectly.

The College must also not be used as a vehicle for the expression of the party-political views of any individual member, Trustee, employee, political party or candidate.

Therefore, it is imperative that the College ensures that:

  • we direct all our activity to solely influence the policy commitments by all the political parties
  • we remain entirely non-partisan
  • we must only comment on issues within our remit, to further our charitable purpose
  • no political party should be seen to use the College, its Office holders, Trustees, College staff or our messaging for its own political gain.

Until the election results are officially confirmed all members, Trustees, patient and carer representatives, and staff of the Royal College of Psychiatrists must follow the guidance set out on this page.


Use of social media

Please note: 'social media' refers to all digital platforms, including X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.

We have provided a toolkit for those wanting to support the College’s manifesto and influencing activity during the election period. You can find it on our 2024 UK general election hub.

The tool kit takes into consideration the rules and regulations regarding influencing activity during the countdown to the general election. This includes the Charity Commission guidance that makes clear that Charities must remain independent and must not give their support to any one political party or candidate.

The College also has clear guidance in place regarding the use of social media, to help ensure we remain within the regulations. It is advisable for people to refresh their understanding of this document.

Specifically, page two of the policy states:

‘Employees, members and patient and carer representatives who have responsibility for relationships with politicians, decision makers and/or stakeholder organisations must take particular care if they have personal accounts and use these to promote College work. In such circumstances, you should not make statements that are overtly political or that could compromise College stakeholder and decision maker relationships.’

We ask that, rather than having social media accounts on which you publish posts about both your work and your personal life, you consider having separate accounts for each where possible.

At the very least you should make clear on any account that posts you make are your own, and not the College’s. Please bear in mind, however, that even if you do have separate accounts for work and personal purposes, when you are posting from a personal account (particularly one which is publicly accessible) you may still be seen as connected to or affiliated with the College. This is especially true for Honorary Officers and Vice Presidents, who must be extremely mindful that, due to the public nature of their College role, any personal or clinical activity is likely to be affiliated with the College and therefore additional due diligence may be necessary.

To ensure you are following the guidance, before posting anything that could be considered overtly political or content that could be seen as endorsing a specific candidate or party, reflect on the content. If anyone reading it could reasonably believe what is being posted is the Colleges view or a view endorsed by the College, it should not be posted.

The Charity Commission expects charities to engage in public discourse in a way that promotes respect, tolerance and consideration for others, and in a tone that reflects our trusted standing as a charity – avoiding inflammatory rhetoric. The College’s values underpin everything we do and must also be taken into account when posting in relation to the College or its work, and in circumstances where your post may affect the College in any way.

If you are unsure about any of your content, we would recommend you apply a cautious approach and not post the content. If you would like to discuss any of your content please reach out to the External Affairs Team on the contacts listed below.

We would also like to remind members that the GMC also has guidance for using social media as a medical professional.

Engagement with Ministers, Shadow Ministers, Parliamentarians, Westminster Parliamentary Candidates and local government

All proposals for engagement with any Ministers, Shadow Ministers, Parliamentarians and Westminster Parliamentary Candidates and representatives from local government should, in the first instance, be communicated to the External Affairs Team or your relevant Devolved Nation Manager, for their advice and support.

This is in line with the College’s current protocols to ensure that all communications remain within the election rules and regulations. For example, this would also include proposals to send invitations to Ministers to Devolved Nation, Division, Faculty, or SIG events, before the invites and any communications are sent.

Please note that after 30 May Parliament in Westminster will be dissolved. This means that all sitting Members of Parliament will stop being MPs. At this time, any MPs seeking re-election will become Westminster Parliamentary Candidates.

International Congress

In the period running up to the general election any proposals for invites to elected representatives should also be shared with the External Affairs Team for advice and support where appropriate, as well as the respective College in the Devolved Nation, where this might be so.

Engagement with civil servants

Engagement with civil servants and other public sector officials – including in NHSE and Local Government for example - can continue in-line with standard protocols during the period running up to the general election.

Please be aware that any communications with civil servants may go unanswered during this time, due to their impartiality rules in this period.

The Devolved Nations

The devolved legislatures in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not holding elections during this period, though there will be Westminster MPs being elected in each of the Devolved Nations. Because of this, the advice in this document applies to members, Trustees and staff from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Devolved Nations will be able to advise on the most appropriate approach to take with regards to invitations, and all other communications with elected representatives in the respective Devolved Nations of the UK.

Devolved Nation policy and public affairs activity

Devolved nation Governments, and Parliaments, will continue to undertake their day-to-day functions during the UK election period and beyond (until their own parliamentary elections).

Similarly, the devolved nation civil servants will continue as normal with their support function for Ministers.

However, devolved nation Government Ministers must ensure that any activity they undertake does not have a bearing on the UK general election.

Similarly, civil servants must ensure that public resource is not used for political purposes, and that their activity can be deemed as politically impartial. This includes Government announcements, communications, speaking events and site visits.

As health is a devolved matter, engagements in the devolved nations can continue to take place with Ministers and departmental officials if the purpose is a devolved matter and has no bearing on the UK general election.

Conflicts of interest

If you are standing for election, please declare this to the Public Affairs Team using the contact details below.

Guidance for independent research

2018 Guidance – waiting for the 2024 update

During the election period, statistical activities should continue in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 (and/or the equivalent Orders made by the Devolved Administrations in relation to devolved statistics), which should be read as though it is part of that Code.

Regular pre-announced statistical releases (e.g. press notices or bulletin publications) will continue to be issued and published. The principles set out here are not about restricting commentary from independent sources, for example academics. It is for individual public bodies to apply this pre-election guidance within their own organisations.

Contact details

Sal Lalji
Head of External Affairs

Peter Hand
Public Affairs and Stakeholder Manager

Gregory Kay
Public Affairs and Media Officer

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