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New mum sales firm faces NHS Lothian contract axe

Some new mums felt 'hijacked' by salespeople just hours after giving birth. Picture: Getty

Some new mums felt 'hijacked' by salespeople just hours after giving birth. Picture: Getty

  • by DAWN MORRISON
 

NHS Lothian is considering axing a contract with a sales company that pays so it can deliver a sales pitch to new mums on hospital wards.

Bounty is a UK-wide parenting club that gives new mums a free pack containing their child benefit form, health advice, product samples and money-saving offers.

It also provides paid for ­services including a professional portrait service.

But the Evening News can reveal NHS Lothian is currently reviewing its contract with the service following a number of letters from “concerned” parents.

It comes after another health board, NHS Highland, informed Bounty it would not be continuing its contract.

Solicitor Sarah Wylie, 30, whose 15-month-old son Tom was born at Simpson Memorial Maternity Hospital, was approached by Bounty and believes their pitch is too “in your face”.

She said: “In retrospect, they approach you at the wrong time. I was pretty out of it and I don’t remember any of it.

“When you have just had a baby you don’t expect to get hijacked by sales people – you get to meet with the midwives for 10 weeks afterwards – that would be a better time to find out about benefits and other information.”

Last month, thousands signed a petition asking UK Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter to outlaw Bounty reps, amid complaints they were cashing in on new parents at a vulnerable time.

But Margaret Watt of the Scotland Patients Association argued that the service should be kept as it is.

She said: “It’s all about choice, and if people don’t want this service it’s up to them – there are quite a lot of mums and dads who would find this supportive and informative.

“There should be a system in place where you can intimate beforehand that you don’t want to be approached.

“We’ve got to go forward in the NHS – it’s 65 years old and you can’t just start going backwards.”

NHS Lothian could not confirm how much money it receives for allowing Bounty in However NHS Highland is paid about £6000.

Melanie Hornett, nurse director for NHS Lothian, said: “We have not been previously aware of complaints from ­parents about Bounty. However, in light of the current national campaign and following a number of letters from concerned parents, we are now reviewing the position.”

A poll conducted by parenting website Mumsnet found eight out of ten mothers thought it was “unacceptable” for NHS hospitals to allow commercial firms to interact directly with patients on wards.

However Clare Goodrham, general manager of Bounty, said a lot of parents find their offers beneficial.

She said: “We are very proud of what Bounty has built over the last 50 years, working in partnership with the NHS and boards such as NHS Lothian to provide essential support and advice to generations of new mothers. I want to reassure everyone that the wellbeing of mums continues to be our number one priority.”

She said an IPSOS-Mori survey showed 93 per cent of all midwives and heads of midwifery approved of the service.

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com

 

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