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NHS Highland to end contract with Bounty parenting club

NHS Highland could be the first of a series of Scots health boards to end their relationships with a sales company which pays for access to new mothers on maternity wards.

campaign: How The Herald high-lighted the concerns in May this year.
campaign: How The Herald high-lighted the concerns in May this year.

The board has given Bounty, which describes itself as the "UK's largest parenting club", six months notice on its contract to send representatives to its maternity hospitals. All visits are due to stop by the end of the year.

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.

Now it has emerged 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.

Melanie Hornett, nurse director of NHS Lothian, said: "We have not been previously aware of complaints from parents about Bounty. However, in light of the current national campaign and following a number of letters from concerned parents, we are now reviewing the position."

NHS Fife, which has received £375 so far this year from Bounty, said it is "considering our options and reviewing our contract".

NHS Lanarkshire said it had not received any complaints about services offered by Bounty but would keep contracts with the company under review "and consult with our mums before any decision regarding future contracts". The health board said it received £4672 from Bounty in 2012 which is added to an endowments fund which is invested back into the service "to benefit our mums and babies".

NHS Grampian also said it had no complaints from patients and did not intend ending the contract, but added: "We will of course review the arrangement when the existing contract expires."

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 mums who give birth in the area is they "enjoy" receiving a Bounty bag.

"In our Bounty contracts we have stipulated explicitly the respectful way in which we expect their representatives to treat our patients and we are not aware of any evidence these protocols have not been adhered to," said an NHSGGC spokeswoman.

In May, Glasgow-based general practitioner Dr Margaret McCartney said in an editorial published on bmj.com Bounty, which gives parents free Baby Bags, profited by selling parents' details to other firms.

A Bounty spokeswoman said the company prided itself in its respect for the "dignity and privacy" of new mothers and its staff worked to a strict code of conduct. She said Bounty had worked with the NHS for more than 50 years – contributing a total of more than £2m a year to health boards and trusts ."

A poll conducted by parenting website Mumsnet found eight out of 10 mothers thought it was "un-acceptable'' for NHS hospitals to allow commercial companies to interact directly with patients on wards.

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