NHS cash-for-access: health minister promises crackdown on firms who invade mothers' privacy

NHS cash-for-access: health minister promises crackdown on firms who invade mothers' privacy

Dan Poulter, the health minister, has vowed to impose tighter controls on the way representatives from firms such as Bounty operate around women who have just given birth. He said the Care Quality Commission (CQC) would be able to take action against maternity wards and birthing units that did not "ensure the protection of women's privacy and dignity".


This could include preventing private firms from approaching new mothers to ask them to sign up for a parenting club, buy professional photographs of their baby or provide personal data that can then be sold on to third party companies. The watchdog could also hand warning notices to hospitals or impose fines, it was reported.


Dr Poulter’s comments follow a Telegraph investigation, which found that new mothers were being targeted under cash-for-access deals just hours after they had given birth. He told the Independent on Sunday that some Bounty representatives showed “an unaccept¬able disregard for the privacy and dignity of women and families at what can be a very vulnerable time.”


He said: “We have recently been strengthening the role and powers of the Care Quality Commission to intervene where there is poor care or where patients' dignity is compromised during their care.“So if hospitals do not take action to get a grip on the situation, then the CQC will be able to take action against the birthing unit."


The personal details of newborn babies and their mothers are collected in wards through photography offers and goody bags offered by Bounty. The details are then repeatedly resold as the child grows older.


Almost 150 NHS hospitals have contracts in place allowing sales representatives access to new mothers. The Telegraph found a number of hospitals were being paid according to the number of babies born on wards under deals worth around £2.3 million each year.


Clare Goodham, General Manager of Bounty said: “We enforce a rigorous code of conduct, which respects mums’ privacy as well as use of any data collected. “Bounty ladies, many of whom are mums themselves, never enter a ward without being cleared to do so by medical staff. "For over 50 years we have worked in partnership with NHS hospitals and trusts to ensure that mums and hospital staff are happy with the service we provide as we strive to achieve 100% satisfaction amongst mums. “That is why Bounty is welcomed by 99% of maternity units. “We are also proud of the fact that 92% of mums say that they love Bounty packs as it gives them free products and money off coupons.”




By Amy Willis and Rosa Silverman



The Telegraph, 4th August 2013






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