Labour rebel speaks out against NHS advertising

A Labour MP has attacked Government plans to allow hospitals to advertise their services to potential patients.

Under the NHS Patient Choice policy introduced in January, competing healthcare providers are free to promote treatment options to the public.

But John Spellar, MP for Warley, near Birmingham, criticised the plans in a House of Commons debate this week.

Speaking as University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust became the latest healthcare provider to embrace the chance to market its services to the public, Spellar said: “This gives an amber, if not a green, light to hospitals to divert money to glossy advertising, leaflets, and press and radio adverts.

“Will residents be getting a leaflet from the hospital, along with ones from the local pizza shop? Money should be spent at the sharp end, not lost in bureaucratic waste.”

But health minister Liam Byrne MP countered: “With the introduction of patient choice and payment by results, it is important that patients are aware of the services and options available to them.

“A small amount of advertising is in the interests of both patients and hospitals.”

Byrne added that the Department of Health is developing guidelines to prevent inaccurate claims being made by health organisations, as first revealed in Marketing Week (MW January 19). The minister claims the guidelines “should deter inappropriate expenditure on advertising”.

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