The advertising watchdog has ruled that adverts by private online GP provider Push Doctor ‘misleadingly implied’ it was providing an NHS service.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched its investigation after receiving 31 complaints, some of which were submitted by GPs.
The ads, displayed as posters on London Underground trains in August last year, said patients could ‘access an NHS GP whenever you want’.
But the ASA found the claim was ‘misleading’, and Push Doctor told Pulse it had ‘voluntarily’ pulled the ads after a two-week trial period before the ASA ruling.
Push Doctor charges £20 per 10-minute appointment and promises access to an ‘NHS trained’ GP in six minutes but GPs from trade union arm Doctors in Unite, who complained to the ASA, said they were ‘disturbed’ by their advertising.
The ASA said in its ruling: ‘The poster included a reference to Push Doctor, “allowing you access to an NHS GP whenever you want” and described the situation of having difficulty in accessing a doctor’s appointment – a situation that we considered consumers were likely to associate with the experience of securing an appointment with some NHS GPs.’
It added: ‘We considered that this wording implied Push Doctor provided an NHS service and, in combination with the other information in the ad about the service provided by Push Doctor, we concluded the ad misleadingly implied the advertised service was provided by the NHS.’
The ASA said they have told Push Doctor ‘to ensure their ads did not imply that they provided an NHS service or that their service was free of cost’.
Eren Ozagir, founder and CEO of Push Doctor, said the ASA’s ruling ‘relates to a small campaign run only in London for two weeks over eight months ago’.
He added: ‘We took the decision, before any notification from the ASA, not to run the adverts beyond the two-week trial and the few points that were upheld here have long since been voluntarily addressed.
‘As the market leader we continuously test a range of communications to help customers understand the changes happening in a previously very traditional sector and to ensure patients are able to make informed choices about the options available to them today.’
It comes as Push Doctor has been looking to partner with the NHS, with Pulse revealing earlier this month that it was seeking to work with multiple GP practices across multiple CCGs in Brimingham.