Ipswich Hospital changes policy on Bounty representatives after mum raises concerns
Ipswich Hospital has changed its policy regarding sales representatives from a commercial parenting club on the maternity ward after a Suffolk woman raised concerns following her experience.
Jo Bowman, 44, from Woodbridge, was approached by a sales representative from Bounty following the birth of her son Stanley at Ipswich Hospital in May.
Bounty gives new mothers a pack containing free samples such as nappies and a government child benefit application form as well as offering a photography service, where pictures of newborns can be purchased.
Ms Bowman says it “simply isn’t right” that representatives are allowed to approach new mothers hours after giving birth and wants to see a blanket ban on sales people in maternity wards.
After writing two letters to the hospital, Ms Bowman received a response from Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, saying that they have agreed to change their policy on Bounty representatives.
Cards are now to be placed on mothers’ bedsides to indicate whether or not they are happy to be approached by Bounty reps.
A question on Bounty is also to be added to the questionnaire given to mothers before they leave the maternity ward.
A spokeswoman for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust (ESNEFT) said bosses will evaluate the success of the policy change at Ipswich before deciding whether to roll it out to Colchester.
Ms Bowman said: “I was shocked to have what is essentially a cold-caller turn up at the end of my bed as I tried to nurse my newborn baby.
“Not only did the rep try to sell me something at a totally inappropriate time, she also wanted personal information about my baby - including his name and weight at birth.
“My son was less than 24-hours-old and was already being mined for his data.
“I worry that, because women they feel they are in a safe place, many new mothers will simply give out important, private information about themselves and their babies without a thought.
“I feel strongly that the wards are places where patients should feel they can be entirely open with the people who approach them, and know that those people have their best interests at heart.
“While this is very much the case for medical and ancillary staff, sales reps have an entirely different agenda.
“I’m pleased that the hospital has now agreed to take action, but I hope this is the first step in a process of getting sales people out of the maternity wards entirely. It simply isn’t the time or the place.”
An East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust (ESNEFT) spokeswoman said: “The first thing we need to do is thank Ms Bowman for this valuable feedback which has led us to change our policy around external representatives in the maternity unit at Ipswich Hospital.
“Women will now be given a choice of whether they want to see an external representative or not by using specially coloured cards.
“We’ll carefully evaluate the success of the scheme before introducing the new policy across all of our maternity centres.”
A Bounty spokeswoman said: “Bounty services are offered on the basis of choice and we are happy to support this initiative at Ipswich Hospital.
“All Bounty staff follow a strict code of conduct which makes it clear to mums that there is no requirement to join Bounty in order to receive either their free Bounty pack or to take advantage of the free Bounty portrait photo session.
“Anyone that joins Bounty can subsequently unsubscribe at any time and parents that choose to have their baby photographed are under no obligation to purchase and can always cancel any order.”