Welwyn Garden City dad fights to keep commercial reps off NHS wards

PUBLISHED: 14:11 26 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:20 26 October 2018

Adrian McNeece and little Charlie as a newborn. Picture: supplied by Adrian McNeece

Adrian McNeece and little Charlie as a newborn. Picture: supplied by Adrian McNeece

supplied by Adrian McNeece

A petition co-authored by a Welwyn Garden City dad about commercial reps on NHS postnatal wards has had a government response.

Over 12,000 people signed the petition started by Welwyn Garden City dad Adrian McNeece with Lauren Jayne Harris.

The issue is now being championed by the Minister for Social Care Caroline Dinenage.

Adrian McNeece, proud dad of baby Charlie, has been campaigning against companies like Welwyn Garden City’s Bounty, which partners with the NHS to put salespeople offering baby photography and consumer deals to new mums on postnatal wards.

Its business model involves sharing with partner companies personal data gathered when mums sign up to the service.

Little Charlie McNeece, whose parents are battling to remove commercial reps from NHS postnatal wards. Picture: suppliedLittle Charlie McNeece, whose parents are battling to remove commercial reps from NHS postnatal wards. Picture: supplied

Adrian says that the practice is intrusive and violates the new GDPR privacy rules, arguing that the person whose data is collected must give ‘informed consent’ - something that a new mum, who may be tired and under the influence of drugs, may not be in a position to give.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Adrian found that the East and North Herts NHS Trust has gained a total of £27,286.64 from its contract with Bounty over the last four years.

“I was shocked that it was so little,” said Adrian. “The NHS shouldn’t be selling access at all, but the fact that they are doing so for such a small amount of money is astonishing.

“Clearly the NHS requires more funding, but selling cheap access to new mums is frankly a revolting misogynistic practice that must end,” he added in an email later.

Natalie McNeece and baby Charlie. Picture: suppliedNatalie McNeece and baby Charlie. Picture: supplied

Ms Dinenage chimed in in a Sunday Telegraph article saying that hospitals must “review the current guidance to safeguard the wellbeing of all women who have given birth”.

In its response to the petition, the Government said: “Commercial representatives on wards are often a valuable source of information for new mothers, and many value the benefits and samples they receive from said representatives.”

However, it also acknowledged that after birth, women may feel especially vulnerable and affirmed that it “takes seriously” concerns raised for mothers.

“The Government expects NHS providers to have regard for the GDPR and to have procedures that ensure the privacy and dignity of mothers in maternity wards is respected,” it said.

Ultimately, the Government leaves individual NHS trusts to consider the issue and ensure any commercial reps are operating in line with GDPR rules.

As such, Adrian believes the Government is “washing its hands” of the whole issue, saying: “The petition response fails to take genuine responsibility for the ongoing public concern.”

Since Adrian raised concerns, the East and North Herts NHS Trust has now imposed an ‘opt-in’ system rather than having mums be approached by reps without having signed up first.

But Adrian still wants to know how clearly the company signposts its data practices when reps do talk to mums.

In seeking to read the sales script that Bounty representatives use on the ward, which is considered a commercial secret, he has taken his fight to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is looking into Bounty’s practices.

A spokesperson for Bounty said their practices conform to GDPR and NHS standards and have a 10-point code of conduct for reps.

“Bounty fully supports and acknowledges the need to respect the privacy and dignity of families on the maternity ward,” they said.

“That’s why we are committed to ensuring every mum we meet in hospital experiences an excellent bedside service from our staff.

“We work closely with the NHS. With mums at the heart of our business, it is essential that we listen and respond to feedback to enable us provide our service with the utmost professionalism and care.”

See here for the petition and the full Government response: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/227744

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