Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Mums' anger over Bounty hunters on maternity wards

Plaid Cymru has urged Betsi Cadwaladr health board to take action after many mothers got in touch complaining about  the way a private company has access to maternity wards in Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Bounty provides information packs and takes photos of new-born babies, which they then try to sell to new mothers at a very vulnerable and tiring time of their lives. Since we broke the story here, mums have been in touch to express their views and thank Councillor Carrie Harper for raising the problem:

LH said: "It ruined what should have been a special time. I was made to feel weird for not wanting their photos and threatened by their constant 'popping in' as if they’re staff. If I hadn’t been warned by friends, I would have assumed they were members of staff. Thank you for highlighting this Carrie."
CW: "Yes, huge thank you! I felt this was really intrusive. Good on you Carrie Harper!"
GH: "Hugely intrusive. Due to complications my baby was rushed to SCBU whilst I was still on the ward. I heard the bounty lady tell her colleague not to bother with me as I 'didn't even have a baby'. This was so insensitive. Privacy was also an issue as they walked in and out whenever they liked." 
NG: "I've had 3 babies in Wrecsam Maelor and each time they have tried to sell the photos and each time I have declined as they are incredibly expensive and I know my husband can take as good if not better photos! The woman who works for Bounty seems pleasant and was very helpful with me and didn't react negatively when I refused to buy the photos. Having said that I totally disagree they should be allowed to encourage people to buy these extremely expensive photos when they are so vunerable and emotionally drained - new mums are at their most vulnerable for sure. Like others note, people have only just given birth and they shouldn't feel pressurised into paying s huge amount for photos. Thank you Carrie Harper for looking out for those who are vulnerable and this debate hopefully will make new mums aware that they can say no like so many others have done before and that there is nothing wrong with saying no thank you!"
RW: "It's disgusting and they look at you like you're mad if you say no."
MG: "No def not new, my youngest is now 12 and remember different issues with them on all 3, no shame, no sensitivity or empathy to what we were going through with premature babies on two occasions."
SC: "Ddigwyddodd o i mi yn Sbyty Glan Clwyd ar ôl geni fy mab yn 1996 a fy merch fenga yn 1998. Oedd y ffotograffydd yn barod i dynnu llun fy mabi cyn i mi ddeud, 'No thank you' a nath hi edrych yn flin arnaf. Maen nhw’n byhafio efo awdurdod ar y wardiau ac hawdd bydde i fam meddwl eu bod nhw’n bobl iechyd swyddogol yn hytrach na gwerthwyr."
CBS: I had one say to me "but how else will you get your child benefit form?" the cheek of it. It's online, and I told her so (and to bugger off)." 
AD: "My daughter had only been back on the ward for 20 minutes before the photographer turned up. She refused a photo, the photographer said I will take one anyway in case you change your mind. Luckily she is strong willed and refused again. She didn't want a stranger having a photo of her new born baby." 
JE: "I had it almost 6 years ago with my first. We nicknamed them the vultures! They used to pop their head around the curtains even if they were drawn! I remember hearing them selling a package to a young girl in the bed next to me. She ended up paying around £80 for pictures... but hey you got a free Christmas bauble with the picture!
 "I was in for 10 days so I had plenty of time to see them at it. When new parents are feeling pretty vulnerable. That is how they distribute the child allowance forms. They are in the pack!! I even heard some offering "support" which was bang out of order. They were acting like Health staff". 
RC: "Shouldn't be allowed on the ward at all. I remember C getting harassed when C was born. They got her email address after and spammed it full of crap." 
ER: "They got irate with me because I had been breastfeeding for ages and they wanted her in the cot so that they could take the photo and kept asking me 'have you finished feeding yet??!' I told them that I wasn't interested in buying the merchandise but they said they had to take a picture of every baby. I was too tired/vulnerable/uncertain of my facts to argue... "
 NH: "Hate them. And midwives give you a ‘Bounty pack’ at your booking in. Mine went straight in the bin. I don’t know about here in Wales now, but when I had my first (in England), I missed out on the Child Benefit form because they were given out by the reps as standard, and obviously when I declined their offer of photos and Bounty spiel, I didn’t get the paperwork. With my second (in Wrexham), I caved because it happened so quickly and she barged in with such confidence and familiarity. Anyway, she said it was free, which is totally misleading. When I looked at the prices on their website I couldn’t believe what a rip off it actually was. Maternity wards are meant to be secure, yet they let this unscrupulous company and their callous reps in. There’s much I take issue with in our maternity wards, and Bounty is certainly a major one. Makes me so angry that hospitals are taking money for women in their trust and care to be harassed at such a special/ vulnerable/ emotional/ heartbreaking/ life changing time. Kick them out once and for all. A total disgrace." 
LD: "I had my babies in England and you have to get the child benefit form from the bounty Lady so can’t avoid her. I was on a ward for mums that had just had various surgeries and were quite vulnerable, the woman insisted on taking the picture even though I said I wouldn’t be buying it then proceeded to bend my babies into various unnatural positions, it really upset me but I was too ill to protest, I’m glad something is being done about it in Wrexham."
 NB: "It's disgusting. I was on the ward at both the Maelor and Glan Clwyd, both times in a private room because I was so unwell, the Bounty people came into both rooms unannounced asking me about my baby (who was in SCBU and unwell at the time) they asked me loads of questions, if they could come back to take his picture. I signed up to make her go away, they came in everyday until I signed up. It goes in the spam folder."
VB: "Definitely should be banned. You’re so vulnerable after giving birth. First time around, I was in hospital a few days as was struggling to feed my baby. The hormones kicked in and I was a blubbering mess thinking I was already failing at parenting; the last thing I needed was the Bounty sales person in my face making me feel even more of a failure for not wanting to smile. I managed to send her on her way but I’m an otherwise outspoken person and I think younger, less confident mums would be even more vulnerable to high pressure sales."
EF: "It is completely wrong and intrusive and wouldn't happen to men who had had a vasectomy: 'Would you like a photo of how you look now your nuts don't work...'
A health worker contacted us:
"Many years ago when I worked as a midwife (and later as a health visitor) the health authority I worked for didn't allow the Bounty people to have any contact with the new mothers, they just allowed them to deliver large cardboard boxes filled with the bags of free samples to the hospital wards.
"They were stored by the entrance to the ward and when the mum was leaving she could take a pack from the box if she wanted one - or not, if she didn't want one. I used to have my reservations about some of the stuff that was in the bags but some of it was marginally useful. I seem to remember there may have been a leaflet in there about photos, but because of the way the bags were distributed, the woman who had just given birth had full control over whether or not she made contact with the people offering the photos.
"I'm horrified to hear that Betsi Cadwaladr have entered into a contract allowing these people onto the wards - completely inappropriate in my opinion and there are other options provided the NHS management is firm about it.
 "I think it's absolutely inappropriate for these people to be given licence to go onto the wards and speak to patients, for all the reasons already discussed and also because if they are seen as being 'approved' in some way then whatever inappropriate advice they might (possibly unintentionally, thinking they are just chatting) give out may be heard as having some authority by someone who doesn't understand the system."
This dossier has been sent to Betsi Cadwaladr's chief executive and Plaid Cymru's Wrexham branch have called for the heath board to stop allowing Bounty and other private firms access to sensitive wards and vulnerable patients without their consent. 

Cllr Carrie Harper said: "Another question to be asked is why Bounty are being used by the HMRC to give new mothers their Child Benefit forms. This company is data farming on a huge scale and this means young families are being targetted with child-related spam for years upon years."

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