How maternity wards cash in on mothers

 

NHS maternity units are colluding with commercial companies to make thousands of pounds by persuading new mothers to buy photographs of their babies and by selling on their personal information.

The companies are given exclusive access to the wards, where they encourage women to have their photos taken with their babies hours after they have given birth and later charge them from £20 per print.

The largest of the companies, Bounty, also buys the right to distribute information packs to new mothers, with free samples of nappies and creams. The packs include the government claim form for child benefit, making them appear official.

Bounty pays about £5,000 for the exclusive right to distribute the packs in a large maternity hospital and can later sell on names and addresses of new mothers who supply them to marketing organisations, for about £1 each. Mothers are then phoned at home by organisations selling insurance and similar services.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which disclosed the figures to The Independent, said it was "totally unacceptable" for new mothers to be targeted in this manner. Allowing "strangers with cameras" into maternity wards was "extraordinary", it said.

A survey by the NCT of 1,000 parents found 95 per cent had been offered the packs, of whom half had been asked for their contact details. Two-thirds had been approached by a photographer and a third of these had felt "some pressure" to have their photograph taken.

Half said commercial photographers should not be allowed access to mothers in hospital and the same proportion were unhappy about their personal data being sold to third parties.

An overwhelming majority called for a halt to the practice. The NCT's chief executive, Belinda Phipps, said: "We find it gobsmacking that commercial companies are given free rein to do this at a time when women have just given birth and are at their most vulnerable. We have had cases of photographers asking women, prompting the women to burst into tears because their baby is unwell and in the special-care unit. In other cases, photographers have sat waiting for women to come out of the shower, compromising their privacy and dignity."

Ms Phipps said women expected to see only health professionals on the wards, so sometimes mistook sales representatives for hospital staff and might have disclosed personal information. She said it was difficult to tackle because maternity units had come to rely on the income from the companies. Janet Fyle, adviser to the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We have always objected to Bounty going in and offering these packs." The NHS Confederation, representing NHS trusts, said trusts often entered into commercial arrangements to provide services and many patients valued them. "However, people must be clear what is being offered and by whom," it said.

Bounty said: "Bounty operates respectfully on the basis of choice and if the vast majority of mums didn't agree, we wouldn't be able to provide the services that we have for over 50 years."

Case study: 'I just cried. They had taken advantage of me'

Frances Walters, 29

Dora Walters was less than 48 hours old when a woman photographer entered the room in Gloucester Royal Hospital where Frances was breastfeeding her.

"She didn't apologise for interrupting us. She just came in, announced she was 'the hospital photographer', brought in her equipment and set it up. I had been exhausted by the birth – I had not slept for four days – and I was overwhelmed physically and emotionally. Although I signed the forms I was in no position to give informed consent in that state."

The woman helped Frances dress the baby and propped her up several times as she took the pictures. Then she left. "After she had gone I just cried and cried. I felt taken advantage of." Frances also objected to the packs Bounty hands out. " I have had lots of calls from organisations since trying to sell me things."

Her husband Brian complained to the hospital: "I told them they had let a complete stranger with no medical training come in and manhandle our baby."

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "As a result of the concerns raised by Mr Walters, the company concerned has reviewed the training of their staff."

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all