Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Advertisers wanting to refer to themselves as “Dr”, “a doctor” or similar, should take care not to imply that they hold a general medical qualification if they do not. The need for clarity is greatest when marketers are making health-related claims and the ASA has taken the tough line on marketers calling themselves ‘Dr’ in the context of health. The safest and simplest way to avoid confusing consumers is that if they do not possess a general medical qualification, advertisers should not call themselves “Dr”.

Claims on a dentist’s website stated “Welcome to the Woodvale Clinic Dr. John W. Stowell L.D.S R.C.S. (Eng) B.D.S F.D.S R.C.S (Edin) G.D.C. Registered Specialist in Oral Surgery”. The ASA acknowledged that since 1995 the General Dental Council (GDC) had permitted its members to use the title “Dr” provided the copy made clear it was a courtesy title only and did not otherwise imply they were qualified to carry out medical procedures. Because he did not hold a general medical qualification, the ASA considered the practitioner should not use the title “Dr” unless the ad stated clearly and prominently and close to the practitioner’s title and qualifications, that the title was a courtesy title and the practitioner did not hold a general medical qualification (Woodvale Clinic, 22 May 2013).

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