They have refused to budge from their 2002 pre-GMS contract position, which states that ‘You should not go out and canvass or entice patients to join your practice'.
The new guidance, endorsed by the GMC and the central document underpinning revalidation, says that a GP's behaviour would be deemed ‘unacceptable' if they were to contact prospective patients directly.
The news follows June's DoH primary care strategy, which said that ministers would promote ‘fair competition' in primary care. It also follows comments by health minister Ben Bradshaw that ‘gentlemen's agreements' between GPs were preventing patients moving practices.
RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field said: ‘On the one hand we would absolutely support information given to patients through websites such as NHS Choices, but it's about objective information rather than saying ‘come down to this surgery because we're better'.'
He added that the RCGP was considering introducing guidance on advertising as part of the forthcoming primary medical care provider accreditation scheme.
The last GMC guidance to rule out ‘claims of superiority' in GP advertising was withdrawn in 1997. The current Good Medical Practice says: ‘You must not put pressure on people to use a service'.
The new joint guidance, Good Medical Practice for GPs, has been updated to reflect the demands of revalidation and the GMS contract.
The DoH said it had no guidance on advertising for GPs.
- For full story, see GP's 8 August edition.
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