A&E NOT for life-threatening emergencies only: Advertising Standards Authority rules against the CCG

We can now bring readers up to date with the saga of Brent CCG’s misleading ads which said “A&E is for life-threatening emergencies only”. The ASA has found that the CCG breached the Advertising Code and told them not to use the ads again in their current form.

Brent Patient Voice (BPV), which represents Brent patients, tried several times but failed to get the CCG to withdraw these adverts. We thought the wording misleading and even dangerous. Most established residents would know the words were just not true, but some people in a diverse borough like Brent might take them literally with potentially disastrous consequences. Of course A&E is there for life-threatening emergencies, but is also there for serious conditions such as someone getting poked in the eye or breaking their ankle. Clearly you won’t die as a result, but you need treating in A&E, not an Urgent Care Centre or similar.

Because the CCG refused to change the adverts, we complained to the ASA, which has investigated and upheld our complaint. We are not aware that the ASA has previously found a Clinical Commissioning Group in breach of their code

We are pleased that an independent national authority has agreed with our concerns. They have said that the ads must not appear again in their current form and told the CCG not to inadvertently make misleading and potentially harmful claims about the scope of A&E services in future.” It is vital that ads like these should be truthful. We regret that we had to take it so far, because we remain keen to work with NHS colleagues to improve services for the people of Brent.

Brent Patient Voice has asked the CCG to take corrective action in the light of these findings, especially in relation to their full-page advert in The Brent Magazine which goes to all homes in the Borough. We await their reaction. We continue to urge the NHS to communicate effectively to the public what alternatives to A&E, such as Urgent Care Centres, can and cannot do.

The full ASA ruling can be found on their website at www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2016/2/Brent-Clinical-Commissioning-Group/SHP_ADJ_316111.aspx#.VrHMzZhLrdk.

Robin Sharp


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