The NHS has had one of its promotional campaigns pulled by the advertising watchdog for the first time, after posters claimed that patients could choose which hospital to go to, it has been revealed.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint by a GP calling into question claims that patients could choose to be treated at any hospital. The medical professional said this key government policy could not be substantiated by fact.
NHS North East released posters and adverts in the press saying that anyone could choose the date and time of their hospital appointment as well as choosing from any NHS hospital and some private ones.
Its claim was rejected because the ASA said it could not be proved that most patients would be able to have their choice substantiated in practice. As a result, a decision was made that the advert could not be shown in the same form again.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We are baffled by this ruling and will be taking the matter up with the ASA. We expect the local NHS to ensure that the public are aware of their right to choose, and that GPs offer their patients choice."
"Yes. I think there is a fine line between the promotion of a service and government spin in this. If NHS services are to be advertised they must abide by the ASA code as commercial organisations do, otherwise the Dept of Health will no longer be seen as trustworthy. Hmmm" – Name and address withheld
"ASA are quite correct. We have experienced cases where PCTs have refused to allow patients to have procedures done in their area because they claim that the service is available within the patient's own PCT" – Allan Stewart, Wirral