In August 2017 we publicised how Push Doctor was making false claims in its advertising drive. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has now banned some Push Doctor ads for implying that services were provided by the NHS, and therefore not making it clear Push Doctor was a private company and there were charges for services. The ASA published its findings 11 April.
Keep Our NHS Public was the first to raise this issue with the ASA and to publicise this abuse of advertising which risks undermining NHS-provided primary care. A member of Lambeth KONP snapped one offending advert on the London Underground and shared it with us.
The ASA upheld four out of six complaint issues it investigated. The fact that a private company found themselves in this predicament speaks volumes about the long and trusted relationship the general public has with the NHS. Push Doctor was capitalising out of the NHS’ established name and reputation, whilst helping to systematically undermine its core values. This is something Keep Our NHS Public is deeply opposed to and we are glad the ASA has seen fit to uphold our complaint.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 31 complaints about the way information was related to the public, most notably around use of the NHS name/logo. The ASA ruled that adverts were likely to mislead as they falsely implied that the Push Doctor service was part of the NHS.
At the time it was seen by the complainants, the web page included the Push Doctor and NHS logos side-by-side at the top of the page; the web page also included various statements referring to NHS-trained doctors and the service available…..We considered that consumers who did visit that web page were unlikely to understand from its contents that the Push Doctor service/app was not an NHS service.(Advertising Standards Authority, 11th April 2018)
In response to the ASA’s report Push Doctor changed the terminology from “NHS Doctor” to “NHS accredited Doctor”. However they did not agree that asserting their employees were NHS GPs was misleading to the public. Push Doctor admitted that they used the word “NHS” because it engendered trust in consumers.
…we considered that consumer expectations around payment for healthcare and a company’s links to the NHS were likely to be strongly affected by their level of recognition of a company and its position as a private healthcare provider, as well as the particular context and content of ads for its services. (Advertising Standards Authority, 11th April 2018)
Push Doctor also stated that having an online consultation offered “better customer service”, which ultimately says a great deal about how private companies like to poach selected cohorts of patients.
The drive towards ‘app-based medicine’ is a prominent theme in NHS England’s presentation of the impossible – namely the challenge to deliver excellent health care with £22bn of annual underfunding by 2020/21. It is fundamentally wrong to replace good and safe clinical consultation with app-based encounters – new technologies should support clinical staff not replace them. The underfunding of the NHS is at crisis level and must not be clouded by private or public adventures based on misleading claims.
Indeed the CQC found Push Doctor, having launched their new for-profit initiative, to be failing in not providing safe effective or well-led services including issues with prescribing and keeping accurate and complete records. This has since been addressed but further highlights the potential for private companies to deliver an inferior service when profit comes before patients.
Samantha Wathen, Media Officer
See our KONP leaflet on GP at Hand – NHS England backs this ‘NHS’ version in partnership with Ali Parsa and Babylon.
Other private services advertising themselves: https://www.thegpservice.co.uk/booking-new-3/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw_ODWBRCTARIsAE2_EvXlmVwVO_XQh6K8sXxwN6IdSg-U6-wTLCzo3LXWE2Bz4FZ8nU9Zo48aAkN-EALw_wcB