Critics have spoken out against plans for NHS hospitals to advertise their services to patients.
Under a new marketing code to be published soon, the Department of Health will set out guidelines for how trusts can promote themselves.
There is unlikely to be a cap on how much money trusts can spend but the guidance is likely to rule out costly television advertising.
The Government’s choice agenda means patients can now select, in consultation with their GPs, where to go for treatment.
As a result, hospitals are faced with the need to attract patients to prevent cash going elsewhere.
But the plan has come in for criticism from the British Medical Association (BMA) and trade unions, who said the money should be spent on healthcare.
Some independent hospital chains already advertise their services to GPs, who help patients make decisions on where to go for treatment.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Voters would rather money was spent on patient care than ads.
"But advertising is a logical conclusion of the Government’s mistaken view that the key to NHS reform is to treat hospitals like competing businesses.
"But while ‘eat at Joe’s’ may be fine, ‘get treated at St Joe’s’ ads go against what the British people hold dear about the NHS.
"Of course the NHS needs to change and improve, but the best way is to get Government managers and staff to work together, not set them up in competition with each other."
A recent survey carried out by YouGov for the NHS Together alliance of health unions and the TUC found that nearly three in four voters rejected the increase in competition within the NHS.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said: "The Government has created a market-based system to deliver healthcare which means the NHS is forced to compete against new private providers in delivering NHS services.
"NHS hospitals will have no option but to invest in marketing tactics, such as advertising, if they are to survive against private firms who will already have large marketing budgets and considerable expertise in selling themselves.
"This is all the more galling when the independent sector receives advantageous rates for less complex work on guaranteed contracts when compared to the NHS."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said a code of practice on advertising and marketing would be drawn up so the public "have reliable information about the services available to them".
"It is important that there are safeguards in place to protect patients and the public from misleading or offensive advertising and promotion," he said.
"The code will offer protection from misleading and inaccurate advertising, giving patients and referrers the confidence to use the information given to them by providers."
Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents more than 90 per cent of NHS organisations, said: "The NHS needs to provide reliable information so that patients, and their health professionals, can make informed choices about where to receive treatment.
"Marketing is actually about understanding what the customer - in this case the patient - needs and wants. If we can better understand what patients want from the NHS, we can better deliver a service that meets those needs."