April 23, 2014 7:36 AM Subscribe
"If an NHS trust proposed today that it was going to introduce Viagra sales reps into men's genitourinary wards, or reps for walking aids to orthopaedic wards, the very least you'd expect would be some stout resistance. It is a measure of the strength of the association between "motherhood" and "buying stuff" that the presence of commercial representatives on maternity wards has been tolerated for so long."
For several decades, the NHS has given 'parenting club' and data marketing company Bounty direct access to pregnant women and new mothers, in exchange for an estimated £2.3 million per year. In participating NHS trusts, pregnant women are given 'Bounty packs' by midwives at antenatal appointments and are visited by sales reps from Bounty in hospital after giving birth, who give out more packs, offer to sell baby photographs, and take details to sell onto third-party companies. Bounty are also paid by the government to distribute forms for claiming Child Benefit (a payment the majority of UK families with children are eligible for), which are included in the postnatal Bounty packs.
Recently, both Bounty and the NHS have come under fire for the commercial partnership. The British Medical Journal published an editorial from Dr Margaret McDonald questioning the ethics of combining commercial advertising with NHS advice, the National Childbirth Trust criticised the arrangement with Bounty specifically, and a House of Commons motion called for an end to the practice of allowing sales representatives on maternity wards.
The parenting site Mumsnet has been campaigning against Bounty with its Bounty Mutiny, which began after a number of the site's members shared their experiences of sales reps using dishonest, invasive or high-pressure tactics to get them to give their details or buy photographs of their babies.
But can the NHS afford to end its partnership with firms like Bounty? As the continuing crisis into NHS maternity services (particularly in England) continues, it is unclear how the Department of Health can afford, or practically implement, improvements.
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