THE sales company at the centre of a row over cash for access to new mothers on Scottish maternity wards has hit back at "commercially motivated" and "inaccurate" attacks by the parenting website Mumsnet.

Last week it emerged NHS Highland could be the first of a series of Scots health boards to end its relationships with Bounty, which describes itself as the "UK's largest parenting club".

Bounty gives new mothers a free pack containing their child benefit form, health advice, product samples and promotions.

Loading article content

Now it has emerged the company is at loggerheads with Mumsnet, which launched a campaign to ban commercial representatives from maternity wards after a survey raised concerns about NHS hospitals allowing private firms to interact directly with patients.

Bounty says Mumsnet is a direct commercial competitor, mainly in advertising, and the survey of 1000 people was discredited because it amounts to a small fraction of the 2000 new mothers they see every day.

Like Bounty, Mumsnet provides access for research purposes to its Parents Panel of thousands of mothers and states that detailed profile data collected is not passed on. Bounty says Mumsnet deals with the same clients as those who choose to use its 37,000-strong Word of Mum Panel.

Clare Goodrham, general manager of Bounty, said: "We are deeply disappointed that, in recent weeks, a competitor, whose users we deeply respect and admire, has made inaccurate claims about Bounty and the practices of our Bounty staff.

"I want to reassure everyone the wellbeing of mums continues to be our number one priority. Bounty is welcomed by 99% of maternity units, and an independent survey by IPSOS-Mori shows 93% of all midwives and heads of midwifery approve of the service provided by Bounty staff, many of whom are mums themselves

"We have no doubt mums will see through the commercially motivated attacks against Bounty."

The poll conducted by Mumsnet found eight out of 10 mothers thought it was unacceptable' for NHS hospitals to allow commercial companies to interact directly with patients on wards.

Bounty pointed out people were asked to complete the survey together with what it considers to be a loaded message: "Hassled by Bounty? Tell us your experience."

A Bounty spokesman said: "The survey is not representative of UK mothers and therefore does not stand up to scrutiny. Of concern as well is the fact that both the framing of the survey on the organisation's website, and some of the questions themselves, are leading.

"They have instigated a highly aggressive social media campaign, eg 237 anti-Bounty tweets over 30 days. Plus their own staff members are tweeting to followers to sign an anti-Bounty petition."

Mumsnet insisted there was strong feeling sales reps should not be on maternity wards, adding: "It's simply not the place for a hard sell."

A spokeswoman for Mumsnet said: "Bounty are a data mining company, which is all well and good but really they shouldn't be doing it on hospital wards. Mumsnet undertakes never to pass on our members' data, so we are really not doing the same thing."

Last month, thousands signed a petition asking UK Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter to outlaw visits from Bounty representatives in hospitals throughout Britain, amid complaints they were cashing in on new parents at a time when mothers were feeling vulnerable.

Last week it emerged that apart from NHS Highland, at least four other Scots NHS health boards including NHS Lothian, NHS Fife, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Grampian are to reconsider their relationship with Bounty.

However, Scotland's biggest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, says it has no plans to withdraw from Bounty contracts saying the overwhelming feedback from the 16,000 mothers who give birth in the area annually is they enjoy receiving a Bounty bag.