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 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."
Janet Fyle, adviser to the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We have always objected to Bounty going in and offering these packs."
SOYMB observes the amount of economic activity in the NHS is immense, and the opportunity to turn that into profitable activity for private capitalists – especially in straightened economic times – is as alluring as an oasis to a thirsty desert traveller. The NHS has always had a massive private element, pharmaceutical companies and other providers.