Agencies gear up for NHS ‘ads to patients’

Advertising agencies are gearing up to pitch for National Health Service (NHS) providers, as the Government gets ready to allow hospitals to compete for patients in April.

Publication of the long-awaited Department of Health marketing code, which will allow NHS Trusts to advertise to patients, is understood to be imminent and follows a consultation process that began in late 2006.

The NHS is currently barred from competing, but the introduction of patient choice could encourage hospitals to advertise direct to patients and compete on the basis of their record on such things as cleanliness, waiting times and death rates.

But sources suggest the code will ban television and cinema advertising because any disproportionate expenditure is likely to damage the reputation of the NHS. It is understood the Government could set a limit on advertising spend to stop money that should be spent on patients being used on marketing and advertising.

Patients currently have limited choice of which hospital they attend in consultation with their GP. Under the new payment-by-results system, hospitals are being given funds per patient treated, meaning they are faced with the need to attract patients to prevent funding going elsewhere.

But the plan to attract patients through advertising has already been criticised by the British Medical Association and trade unions, who say the money should be spent on healthcare.

The marketing code comes as a growing number of foundations and NHS Trusts appoint marketing directors and business development directors.

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here