Frequently asked questions about advertising & practice promotion

How and where may I advertise my practice?

You may advertise anywhere as long as the advertisement is honest, professional and accurate.

For all details please see the ASA website here - https://www.asa.org.uk/codes-and-rulings/advertising-codes/non-broadcast-code.html

[Reviewed - June 2018]

Am I able to advertise other services in my practice?

Having considered the problem of increasing overtures to members to advertise services within their practice in the context of rule seven of the CSP Rules of Professional Conduct, the executive and main committee have produced a policy statement and standard response. This position is being communicated to the CSP with a request that some or all of it be included in the notes to rule seven in the next published edition of the rules.

Essentially there are increasing approaches from solicitors, advertising agencies and intermediaries to members, who ask them to do a number of things based upon the fact that accident victims are likely to attend for treatment and are therefore a good vehicle for advertising their services.

Requests from anyone to an MCSP to refer a patient for a commission (often as much as £150 per patient) is easily dealt with as it would be a clear breach of rule 7. A request to carry an advertisement for a solicitor or legal service for example, is more problematic.

The potential rule seven problem arises if the MCSP refers the patient to the advertisement or the firm or company advertised there. Such reference could constitute a clear breach of rule seven.

The danger for breaching rule 7 becomes even more pronounced if the patient asks the MCSP what he or she thinks of the firm or company that is advertising in their practice.

By way of illustration, if the response is: "Frankly I have no idea they just advertise here", then there is unlikely to be a problem.

If however, the response is an endorsement of the advertiser, a response that could range from "They offer a superb service in that they have a good reputation and act for many clients like you" to "They acted for me in my accident and they were great" then this would be a probable breach. In the former response, how can an MCSP make a judgement about the quality of the advertiser. Even in the latter example, an MCSP may have personal experience of an individual doing a good job for them, but they are in no position to endorse the whole firm of company. Even more compelling is the fact that such an endorsement or promotion of the service to a patient arguably always exploits the professional relationship with a patient.

[Reviewed - January 2018]

What can I do if another physiotherapy practice sets up in close proximity to mine?

There is nothing to prevent anyone setting up a private practice near one that already exists – if there were any such rule, it would be a breach of competition legislation.

The only restrictions that can be applied to anyone contemplating setting up a practice within close proximity are those that have been agreed to within a contract not to do so, i.e. where the person who is proposing to set up the practice either was employed by or was a self-employed associate of the person with the established practice. These tend to be called "restrictive covenants" and they usually have to be "reasonable in time and area" to be enforceable. To determine what is reasonable, one needs to take individual legal advice.

If you find that someone has set up a new practice close by (or if you are proposing to set up a practice close to other Physio First members) here are a few points to consider;

  • There are real advantages in trying to meet to discuss future plans and existing services as there may be opportunities for collaboration, locuming, etc.

Even if there are no such opportunities;

  • It is often best to meet the competition; finding out that they, too, are a real person who is not necessarily out to damage your business, is helpful

  • Finding out that they are helpful too!

  • They may not be useful in the short-term but they may have potential use in the longer term e.g. they could be a candidate to buy or sell your practice to

  • Remember examining the "competition" is a business fundamental and so all information gathered should help inform the steps you take to continue to be successful in such a situation.

[Reviewed - June 2018]

What is the current position regarding the ASA problem?

Physio First reported (Update newsletter, May11, p6) that the ASA has, since March 2011, been policing marketing messages online. This has raised some serious issues.

In short, your concerns are exactly the same as those of your executive committee and so far there is no easy solution.

This is an anomaly of epic proportions and it faces many professions, not just chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists and physiotherapists.

At the moment members of our executive committee and our General Secretary are engaged with the CSP to work up a strategy to address this, but it could be one of the biggest fights the profession has ever had.

Bottom line: there is no solution to this problem. If the ASA responds to a complaint about your or our website and asks you or anyone to remove what they regard as inappropriate, there is no resource other than to comply, short of making it a test case and ultimately being prepared to face prosecution over the principle.

For the time being all we can say is that the prosecution policy of the ASA is to send out a letter advising the transgressor to remove offending materials to avoid them taking action. If done, that appeases the ASA and no further action is taken.

Of course, for the ASA to know about it, there would have to have been a complaint.

It is a complex and difficult problem to resolve and we are in the throes of trying to address it now, but it will not be easy.

If you wish to discuss this further contact Paul Donnelly our General Secretary on 01202 417 627 or general.secretary@physiofirst.org.uk

[Reviewed - June 2018]

 

Visit the page