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GPs face pressure from patients after Specsavers markets its NHS audiology service

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1501 (Published 05 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1501
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The leading commercial eyecare provider Specsavers has been criticised for directly marketing its NHS funded hearing care services to patients, amid fear of a surge in demand that could destabilise NHS finances.

The company has secured more than 30 contracts to provide community audiology services across England as one of several private firms approved to provide NHS services under the government’s “any qualified provider” scheme.1

But in a move that one senior GP has described as “the ugly side of commercialisation” Specsavers has sent out leaflets to patients, featuring the NHS logo, urging them to ask their GP to refer them to Specsavers for free hearing tests, free digital hearing aids, and free aftercare. The company has also placed advertisements for its NHS services in newspapers and on buses.

GP commissioners are concerned that the marketing drive may stimulate unnecessary demand and hamper their efforts to keep increasingly tight NHS finances under control.

Rules on marketing NHS services state that …

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