A private health insurance company has been forced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to remove an advert from its website after making false claims about avoidable deaths in the NHS.

Bestmedicalcover was found by the ASA to have made an inaccurate claim to “appeal to fear to sell private health insurance.”

The insurance company said that a report by the medical director of NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, had uncovered a “staggering 13,000” deaths in hospitals. However, Keogh did not say this and, in fact, criticised use of the figure as misleading.

The ASA received 54 complaints and ruled that the advert must not appear again.

Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This was scaremongering of the worst kind, playing on people’s fears for their health to frighten people into purchasing private medical insurance by rehashing false accusations.

“While Keogh did highlight serious concerns about 11 poor performing NHS trusts, there are also many examples of private sector clinical negligence – not least the Paterson case involving hundreds of women having inappropriate or unnecessary breast surgery.

“Unfortunately this is one of many recent attempts to undermine the NHS to create money-making opportunities for private sector businesses.”