NHS hospitals are cashing in by posting adverts for no win, no fee personal injury lawyers, it has been revealed.
Some trusts are paid up to £200,000 a year to display adverts on the back of patient advice leaflets, the BBC reports.
Personal injury lawyers are the only ones who can afford to advertise in order to keep the free service going, experts say.
But NHS guidelines state trusts ‘should not consider advertising personal injury or claims management services’.
However, the Department of Health have said the form of advertising is a matter for individual trusts to decide on.
Some trusts are paid up to £200,000 a year to display adverts on the back of patient advice leaflets, it has been revealed
Pro Vision Systems, based in Lytham St Annes, Lanacshire, has more than 200 contracts to supply racks of advertising cards in A&E units.
While BOE Publishing, in Blackpool, told You and Yours that it is contracted to 129 NHS locations for its patient advice leaflets.
On the back page of each booklet shows adverts, but the front displays the NHS logo and the local trust name. Contract agreements are believed to last for eight years on average.
Defending the arrangements, Pro Vision Systems said: ‘The only advertisers who will spend the money required to fund this free service are personal injury lawyers.’
The company said some hospitals are increasingly reliant on the extra revenue. ‘We know two trusts have used this money to pay months of overdue overtime,’ it told the BBC.
‘In one case, an A&E department which only had three heart monitors used the money we provided to buy eight new ones.’
BOE Systems said it offered cash and equipment donations to many of the hospitals it supplies, including uniforms and catering trolleys.
But critics say the deals are ethically dubious. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has been campaigning against such deals for years, last night warned they are fuelling a ‘compensation culture’ that is ‘destroying the NHS’.
The NHS has paid a £6.4billion bill for compensation claims in the last ten years – with nearly a third spent on legal fees.
In 2006/07 there were just 50 open claims. But that has risen year-on-year to 9,493 claims still open in 2015/2016.
But NHS guidelines state trusts ‘should not consider advertising personal injury or claims management services
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly tried to tackle the problem, announcing several initiatives to end what he describes as the ‘blame culture’ at the heart of the NHS. But he is seemingly powerless to stop hospitals handing out the leaflets.
The campaign by Mr Bridgen resulted in former NHS England Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson writing to trust leaders in 2012 warning them off such deals. But with no way to stop the arrangements, little has changed.
Mr Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said: ‘By participating in these deals, the NHS is feeding a monster that is devouring it. For me it is immoral.’
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly tried to tackle the problem, announcing several initiatives to end what he describes as the ‘blame culture’ at the heart of the NHS
Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, said: ‘This process is encouraging people to make a claim they might not otherwise have done.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said allowing the firms to advertise in NHS leaflets ‘is in our view ethically questionable and could lead to patients being misled’.
A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where such leaflets are on display, said: ‘We can confirm that we do have a contract with a firm to provide patient information literature across the emergency department.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Guidelines state that NHS bodies should not consider advertising personal injury or claims management services – however, this form of advertising is a matter for individual trusts.’
This comes after an investigation by The Mail on Sunday found that Britain’s biggest clinical negligence firm was paid almost £30 million by the NHS in legal costs.
Irwin Mitchell, which attracts clients on the promise of no win, no fee agreements, was paid £29,027,575 in 2015-16 alone.
That figure is almost three times the £11 million they obtained in the 2007-08 financial year.