Welsh Health Minister's Ban On Advertising In Hospitals Will Cost The NHS £1 Million

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Health Minister Edwina Hart's directive to ban all legal service advertising in Welsh hospitals could cost the Welsh NHS trusts £1 million in compensation through breached contracts.

The Claims Standards Council, the trade body representing BOE/Asyst, the company behind the advertising that precipitated the recent decision, has written to the Health Minister and all the Welsh assembly members demanding that the minister withdraw her directive.

Andrew Wigmore, policy director of the Claims Standards Council commented:
"I think Edwina Hart's ignorance on this issue is breathtaking, she has directly put in jeopardy the right of her constituents to obtain access to justice by banning this service, her actions are fundamentally detrimental to the consumer.

"More importantly she thinks that £1 million of NHS money is worth spending on challenging BOE/Asyst contracts - this is an arrogant use of public of public money of monumental proportions. We do not think the minister has even bothered to investigate the nature of these contracts with the trusts. This company has worked with some of these hospitals for over 20 years, providing a crucial service to help mitigate clinical risk to the hospital.

"I don't know how the minister can look her constituents in the face and say this is the right thing to do, particularly in the heartland of Wales where thousands of miners have been compensated for lung disease. Does she think that her constituents should have been denied information on how to obtain compensation? The minister also refers to claims made against hospitals, which is not of course and never has been the target of the advertising.

However, the implication is that she does not want the public to be aware of their right to claim where a hospital is at fault. We at the Claims Standard Council have to wonder if she implying that courts erroneously award damages. If not what is her problem? Does she want to do everything possible to prevent people with a legitimate claim from claiming?"

Owen Burrows on behalf of BOE commented:

"We cannot understand why the health minister has decided to pursue this action, It makes no sense whatsoever. My company was integral in providing the Ministry of Justice detailed intelligence on malpractice and rogue advertising. We have worked with these hospitals for over 20 years, providing them with valuable tools in the form of approved publications and services. If the minister had taken the trouble to engage with the trusts she would find we have saved the NHS thousands of pounds for front line health staff. We are saddened that she does not see the value of our services and cannot see that forcing the NHS trusts to breach their contracts would cost thousands of pounds - money that should be used for more important things than banning legitimate contracted legal services advertising."

The Claims Standards Council has commissioned a detailed report (please see the attached document) on this issue by Mark Boleat, formerly the regulator of claims management services who was the driving force behind the reforms that became the Compensation Act 2006. Copies of the report will be sent to the health minster and all members of the Welsh Assembly to help clarify the position and allow them to understand the issues that were in play before the act and how they were resolved.

Commenting on the report, Mark Boleat said, "The Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales is requiring hospitals to cease carrying any advertising for businesses concerned with claiming compensation or otherwise assisting those who have suffered an injury. This would seem to have the effect of limiting access to justice and the provision of other vital services to those who have suffered injury, as well as eliminating a legitimate revenue-earning opportunity for hard-pressed hospitals. In England and Wales generally the approach of effective regulation through the Compensation Act 2006 has served to eliminate undesirable practices while at the same time providing helpful information to those with a legitimate claim."

For comment please contact

Andrew Wigmore - 07958 913771
Chris Sheppard - 0870 444 6454

The Claims Standards Council
11 Poland Street
London
W1F 8QA

0870 444 6454

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Andrew Wigmore
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