The Advertising Standards Agency has banned an NHS advertising campaign that promotes patient choice on the grounds that the adverts are “misleading”.
The adverts – part of the Good News You Choose campaign conducted by NHS North East – tell patients that they can choose which hospital and at what time they have their treatment.
However, the ASA has upheld a complaint filed by a GP that these claims could not be substantiated – because the NHS could not prove that most patients would be able to exercise their choice in practice they could not make the claims.
A spokesman for the ASA told the BBC, “We considered the ad suggested patients could always choose the date, time and place of their appointment for non-emergency, planned referral but, because NHS North East had not provided evidence that showed that was the case, we considered the ad could mislead readers.”
According to NHS North East, the purpose of the advert was to convey the message that the choice of hospital rested with patients rather than with GPs, as has traditionally been the case, not state how an appointment could be booked or confirmed.
On April 1 this year, government rules changed so that patients referred to see a specialist can choose where they will be treated, including at a private hospital. The new legislation aims to give people more flexibility so that they can fit hospital appointments around their work, family or other commitments.