The government has been warned that it will be counter-productive to impose a ban on leaflets advertising claims management companies and personal injury solicitors from NHS hospitals.
Simon Burns, the health minister, recently told NHS trusts in England that it was not acceptable to place advertisements for law firms in hospitals. Patients should be focusing on their treatment and recovery, without being hounded by personal injury lawyers.
However, advertisers have now warned that the ban would affect hospitals’ income and clashes with the Compensation Act of 2006, which lets businesses operate in trusts as long as they have the approval of the hospital management.
Claims management companies donate specialist equipment to hospitals in return for being allowed to advertise on NHS leaflets. Hospital trusts and advertisers can also negotiate financial deals.
Anthony Mowatt, a shareholder in BOE Medical Publishing, one of the largest producers of NHS leaflets, warned against confusion between patients seeking personal injury compensation and medical negligence.
He explained that the contracts with NHS hospitals forbid BOE’s panel of solicitors participating in a claim against that hospital. In the majority of cases, patients are given a leaflet on discharge; they’re not being distributed to people in Accident and Emergency wards.
Mark Boleat, the former director-general of the ABI, said the system would be open to abuse if the current rules on advertising were changed. Before the 2006 Compensation Act came into force, several cowboys advertised in hospitals and in some cases security guards were employed to keep them out. Now, advertisers have to get the agreement of the hospital. If that system in removed, advertising will still continue but there will be no control over it.