In a move that I for one think is particularly welcome, the NHS are to end a longstanding arrangement in which personal injury law firms would pay to be able to advertise their services in hospitals, particularly accident and emergency departments.
Although these arrangements have in the past brought in added revenue to hospitals, it has never been something I have been particularly comfortable with. Whether it’s an old fashioned view or not but I’ve always felt solicitors should be there for people when there is a genuine need and that aggressive marketing often sends out the wrong signals about the profession. Often such advertising is seen as “opportunistic” in that it potentially encourages people to seek legal redress whereas traditionally it would be for the client to seek out a solicitor if ever the need arose.
Further, the argument would be that everyone’s attention within a medical establishment should be to heal the patient as quickly as possible and so it is hard to see the benefit in that context of law firm marketing.
Jeremy Hunt stated:
“I’m increasingly concerned that the presence of personal injury law firms in the NHS – some of whom are pursuing extremely aggressive and opportunistic tactics to win new business – is distracting for staff, and intrusive for patients and families.”
It is always a fine line however between tasteful advertising and so-called aggressive marketing. Measures have been introduced in recent years to kerb aggressive marketing however with the offering of free gifts such as I-pads and so forth being banned and also referral fees, in which law firms paid a third party for a new case, being made illegal.
NHS England states it has received letters of complaint from patients and MPs about solicitors’ marketing in hospitals.
Sadly it is often firms that specialise in personal injury and/or medical negligence that are seen in a negative light: phrases such as “ambulance chasers” and so forth can often be used by attackers. What is perhaps a little ironic is that in all of the medical establishments I have seen solicitors’ advertisements it has actually been the supposedly trusted longstanding local high street firm rather than a personal injury or medical negligence specialist firm.
I think the important message should be that whether to consult a solicitor should be no-one’s decision to make other than the victim or their family. At Aston Knight Solicitors we pride ourselves on a “no-pressure” approach and never cold call, offer referral fees or in any way pressure anyone to proceed: the decision is always yours.