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Medical Council to review advertising by doctors

The Medical Council is undertaking a review of advertising by doctors

The Medical Council is consulting doctors and the public on its Statement on advertising.

Medical Council, chairperson Dr John Adams said today, ‘The issue of advertising of clinical services and medical products has caused Council and many doctors much angst over the years.

‘The Council believes advertising has a role to play in keeping the public informed, but it can also mislead or exploit them with the potential to cause harm.

Dr Adams says, ‘The review of the Council’s 2007 Statement on advertising offers the Council the opportunity to ensure that our standards meet the expectations of both the profession and the public.’

The Council’s consultation paper has focused on two specific parts of the existing statement:
· the use of titles; and

· the use of discount coupons and gift certificates.

‘The Council has looked at the use of titles by doctors which are currently regulated by a standard which states that specialist titles should not be used except where they directly relate to the doctor’s speciality.

‘Of particular concern to the Council, has been the use of titles in the area of cosmetic medicine which could possibly lead patients into believing their doctor had qualifications they did not actually have.

‘To overcome this perception, the Council has proposed doctors only advertise those qualifications approved as part of their registration and that relate to their vocational or general scope of practice or that have been granted by a medical college or training organisation accredited by the Council, ‘said Dr Adams.

When it was developing the statement in 2007, the Council regarded discount coupons and gift certificates as inappropriate advertising tools. In recent years, the sophistication of these tools has developed significantly.

‘The Council, in the past was concerned the use of a discount coupon or gift certificate could undermine an informed consent process.

‘Our sense was that there was a danger that in purchasing a discount coupon or gift certificate the patient is effectively agreeing to undergo treatment before being fully informed about the risks, benefits and alternatives.’

Today however, says Dr Adams such coupons are generally for an assessment rather than for a procedure and make clear that any treatment is dependent on the outcome of that assessment and the provision of the patient’s informed consent.

‘The Council is now proposing to lift the ban on gift certificates and discount coupons, subject to a number of conditions to protect patient health and safety.’
Any advertising by means of discount coupons or gift certificates, must not undermine a doctor’s relationship with the patient and the informed consent process, ‘said Dr Adams.

Under the Council’s proposed guidelines doctors will be expected to ensure that their coupon or certificate is clear that:
· purchase of the certificate or coupon does not equate to granting informed consent
· prior to treatment the patient will have an opportunity to discuss treatment with you, to ask questions and to provide their informed consent
· the patient will be provided with a period of reflection of at least seven days between purchase of the certificate or coupon and the provision of treatment
· the patient has the right to opt out of treatment at any time
· you will not provide the requested treatment if your assessment indicates that the patient is not a suitable candidate
· the patient will be entitled to a refund should they decline to provide consent, or should you decide that they are not a suitable candidate for treatment or that an alternate treatment is a better option for that patient.

A copy of the Council’s consultation paper is available online.

Submissions on the consultation paper close on Friday, 28 March 2014 and should be emailed to .

- ENDS -

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