NHS hospitals which allow personal injury lawyers to advertise on their wards have been ordered to “immediately review their practices” by health officials.
Forty NHS trusts in England allow solicitors to advertise using display posters and other promotional material, it was revealed yesterday.
It comes despite a warning from the Department of Health that allowing advertising material on NHS premises was “neither necessary nor appropriate”.
Officials issued advertising guidance to trusts in 2004 and again in 2007 saying that allowing such promotional material might imply that the trust endorses the companies which could “undermine the relationship between staff and patients”.
NHS boss Sir David Nicholson again wrote to hospitals last year to remind them that such advertising is “not acceptable and wholly inappropriate”.
“We have been clear it is not acceptable for this sort of advertising in NHS hospitals,” said a Department of Health spokeswoman.
“Any trusts behaving in that way need to immediately review their procedures.
“Patients should be able to focus on receiving treatment and getting better, without having to be hounded by lawyers or adverts displayed in A&E departments.”
One personal law firm, Kiteleys Solicitors, has an office in Southampton General Hospital, although it does not pursue claims against the hospital.
Another law firm operates from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge but again the solicitors do not deal with any cases related to challenges against it.
Some hospital trusts are paid more than £100,000 a year to allow personal injury lawyer advertising, while others get information leaflets printed for free in return for a “no win, no fee” advert on the back.
Between 2011 and 2012, the health service paid out a record £1.2bn in legal costs and compensation payouts.
Deborah Evans, chief executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said: “Hospitals are where injured people go, so law firms who advertise in hospitals are simply reaching the people who need them, and are permitted to do so.
“There is a place for legitimate advertising, as it can help people with genuine personal injury claims to find the help they need.
“It is important that advertisements are tasteful and make clear that compensation is not available for any accident, but only when the injury is a result of proven negligence.”