Trusts will be able to spend as much as they like on advertising under a draft code of practice proposed by the Department of Health this week. Hospitals could also use celebrity patients to endorse their services.
NHS Confederation chief exectuive Dr Gill Morgan said a spending cap had been rejected as it would be impossible to judge what items would be included, such as newsletters.
'The advice we gave to government was that actually you can't cost this. People think marketing is about advertising, but it is also information.'
But trusts will have to publish details of their advertising budget and it must be proportionate, the proposals warn. TV or cinema advertising 'is very unlikely to be justifiable'.
Trusts will not be able to pay celebrities or other patients for endorsements and will face tight restrictions on claiming services are better than those offered by others. They will have to 'appoint a senior employee' to make sure promotional activity meets required standards, and will have to pay membership charges to a new body set up to run the code.