Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 09:59 UK

Watchdog bans 'misleading' NHS ad

An advert in which patients in the north-east of England were told they could choose their own hospital has been banned by watchdogs.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with a GP who complained the NHS North East ad was misleading.

Press and poster ads claimed patients could choose the date, time and type of hospital for appointments.

NHS North East said the ad reflected government policy of giving patients more choice about hospital referrals.

The ad showed the heads of two people, with quotes alongside them stating respectively: "I'd like a hospital with shorter waiting lists", and "I'd like to be treated by the same team of people as last year."

No evidence

Text underneath stated: "You can choose from any NHS hospital, as well as some private ones."

But a spokesman for the ASA said: "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."

He said the ad breached rules of substantiation and truthfulness.

Newcastle-based NHS North East said the aim of the ad was to convey the message that choice rested with patients as opposed to in the more "traditional" situation where GPs chose hospitals.

A spokesman said it was never their intention to state how an appointment could be booked or confirmed.

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