Advertising services

I would like to include patient testimonials and before and after photographs on a new leaflet advertising my services. Can I do this and are there any restrictions?

When publishing information about your services it must be factual, verifiable and must not make unjustifiable claims about quality or outcome, nor must it exploit patients' vulnerabilities. Whenever patient information, be it photographic or otherwise, is to be available to third parties, you must have written consent from the patient even if they are not identifiable. The patient must not be put under any pressure to agree. In seeking consent, you will need to tell patients how you intend to use their photographs, what sort of audiences the material will be shown to and how long it will be in circulation. Patients also need to be told that once their image has been published it may not be possible to fully control its future use. Any images of patients should not compromise their privacy or dignity.

Patients will need to see the photographs in the context in which you intend to use them (e.g. leaflet or website) and you must make it clear that they can withdraw their permission at any time, and that it will not in any way affect the care they receive. You will need to answer any questions patients ask, in addition to the details that you have provided. GMC guidance on this topic can be found in Good Medical Practice (2013) in paragraph 70 under the heading 'Communicating information'.

If you wish to advertise NHS services, you should refer to the Code of Practice for the promotion of NHS funded services (March 2008) which is available on the Department of Health website. 

In particular, paragraphs 35-41 deal with testimonials and endorsements. These must be, among other things, 'based on genuine experience, given freely without financial payment or other inducement…'

Finally, advertising must also conform to the Advertising Codes enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority. Further information is available on their website.

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This page was correct at publication on . Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.