The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned Babylon Healthcare Services‘ GP at Hand adverts, which promised users who signed up to the service that they could book NHS appointments in minutes.
It follows an investigation into three of the company’s ads, which included a paid for Facebook post, a poster seen on the London underground platforms, a website and an app for the service. The ads, which used the NHS logo, claimed that users would be able to see a NHS GP within minutes for free on a 24/7 basis.
Eight complaints, including one from a GP, were made against the ads as they did not make clear that patients would have to leave their current doctor to use the services advertised.
Additionally, the ads failed to make it clear that the services were only available to patients who lived or worked within 40 minutes of one of five surgeries or worked in the catchment areas in London. Only those who met this criteria would be able to see a GP in person.
Furthermore, it was not stated in any of the ads that that registering with the new GP could take up to three weeks, which complainants say contradicted the ad’s claim “see a NHS GP in minutes”.
Babylon Healthcare Claims Eligibility Criteria Self-Evident
Babylon Healthcare have challenged these assertions saying that the signing-up process and eligibility criteria were clearly displayed on the GP at Hand app and website. A spokesperson for the company said: “This ASA judgement refers to GP at hand advertisements placed online as well as in and around Central London over nine months ago.
“At that time, our advertisements stated that you can see an NHS-registered GP ‘in minutes, for free, 24/7′. This is indeed something you can do once you’ve registered as a GP at hand member. The sign-up process and eligibility criteria are clearly explained in detail via our app and website.”
In its ruling, the ASA stated that people would have to make a transactional decision to seek out the website or app – only then would they find out if they were eligible. The ASA added: “We told GP at Hand to ensure that future ads made clear that consumers would be replacing their current GP service with GP at Hand, that the service was only available to those that lived or worked within the catchment area of specific GP surgeries and that consumers would need to wait until they were registered with a GP at Hand surgery before being able to use the service”.