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Ambulance advert ban 'will cost NHS pounds 1m'.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

PLANS to rid the NHS of adverts for compensation firms could cost the health service pounds 1m.

The Claims Standards Council has said NHS trusts could be forced to pay compensation for breaching contracts if health minister Edwina Hart pursues a ban on these adverts.

The warning comes after the Echo last week revealed that information leaflets featuring adverts for the firm Asyst had been handed out to patients at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff.

It emerged that Mrs Hart had repeatedly told all NHS trusts to remove them from all patient advice sheets.

Andrew Wigmore, policy director of the Claims Standards Council, said: "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 pounds 1m of NHS money is worth spending on challenging BOE/Asyst contracts - this is an arrogant use of public money of monumental proportions.

"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 implication is that she does not want the public to be aware of their right to claim where a hospital is at fault."

And Owen Burrows, of BOE/Asyst, said: "We cannot understand why the health minister has decided to pursue this action. It makes no sense.

"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."

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central, raised the issue of the University Hospital of Wales adverts with Mrs Hart. She said: "While people injured in accidents and other incidents should be compensated, it is not right that private no-win no-fee law firms, who profit from both compensation claimants and our public services, should be advertising in the NHS.

"Is it really appropriate to advertise in a hospital?" A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "As long ago as March 2008 the minister indicated that patient information leaflets featuring such adverts should be removed as soon as practically possible without incurring financial penalties.

"There was never an expectation that NHS organisations would break any contracts - rather that any contracts already in place should not be renewed."


Health minister Edwina Hart has come under fire for her attempt to ban personal injury compensation adverts from NHS patient advice leaflets, like the one pictured below
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 21, 2009
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