NHS trusts are being paid up to £200,000 a year to place adverts from personal injury law firms onto patient advice leaflets.
The BBC has reported that some of the trusts use the money to cover staff overtime and buy equipment such as heart monitors. It comes at a time when clinical negligence claims against the NHS rose by 27% to £1.48 billion.
One advertising marketing agency, Pro Vision Systems, has told You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 that it has over 200 NHS contracts to supply and maintain the A&E unit racks. Another, BOE Publishing, has said that it is contracted to 129 sites in addition to other NHS supply agreements. Both companies have contracts to provide racks of cards in accident and emergency wards, giving information on problems such as head injuries and nose bleeds.
Adverts from personal injury law firms are usually placed on the reverse of leaflets, which also display the NHS and local trust’s logos.
Pro Vision Systems says its royalty payments to NHS trusts vary from a few thousand pounds a year to £200,000, with contracts lasting an average of eight years.
“The only advertisers who will spend the money required to fund this free service are personal injury lawyers,” Pro Vision told You and Yours.
“Certain hospital A&E departments, especially around the North and Midlands, can generate very large numbers of claims. Companies have been played off against each other not just to provide the best advice cards and service, but to create income for the trusts.”
A senior NHS manager told the BBC that the leaflets were “ethically, not ideal”.