Below is a copy of my guest blog post on Me, The Man and The Baby about the Mumsnet Bounty Mutiny campaign.
I’ll be up front here I am a very vocal part of the Bounty Mutiny campaign on Twitter and through Mumsnet. If you want to stop reading now then you are welcome to go, I wish you a hearty farewell and no hard feelings.
Hello very welcome reader to my guest post. I am currently feeling very honoured to be asked to write this for Me, The Man & The Baby. I’ll try not to gush too much!
Now then, the Bounty Mutiny. Why am I so involved? Two reasons mainly, personal experience being the first. I think many of us who support the campaign have this in common and certainly 20,000 others do too going by the current petition on change.org. However there is another reason too, I am a passionate believer in bettering our society and our public services for all to enjoy and use in a non-threatening way.
I have campaigned to highlight homophobic bullying within school environments, to increase numbers of nurses and midwives with the NHS, to improve birth experiences via UNICEF both in the UK and abroad and with this came my interest in this campaign.
You see I believe it is possible to support, and to bring about change in more than one thing at a time. I believe that as a society we are capable of seeing a wide reaching number of issues and addressing them all, not picking out whichever one is considered to be the most “worthy” because I believe that different things matter to different people and we cannot class things as “worthy” or “more important” than each other because for different groups of people different things are important.
Bounty have been the main stay of maternity wards for over 40 years. Back in the days when cameras were rare they provided a service to capture a newborns first days. This was a time when new Mums stayed in hospital for a length of time incomparable to today’s standards for the majority of women. Back at the time when Bounty started to visit the maternity wards they were offered a small side room, often alongside the nursery where the babies slept, to provide their service. The Bounty packs had been in existence since 1959 and were disturbed from this small office. The mums decided when, or even if, they wanted to go and visit the Bounty Lady to collect their pack or have the photos taken. What a wonderfully opt in service.
Of course times have changed, competition has arisen and shorter turnarounds in maternity discharge has meant that Bounty have had to up their game. They still hold the market share in packs given to new and expectant mothers,( although smaller, local, independent firms who disagree with the promotion of formula and disposable nappies are coming up with green, breastfeeding friendly alternatives see one example here: http://www.mamapacks.eu/), they had to become more sales driven with the photo service they offered. Long gone were the days of the Bounty Lady in a side office, she now had to wander from bed to bed with her camera, being paid only in commission meant she had to get those photos if she wanted to get paid. Commission based selling is always going to encourage pressure selling. How many of us have been plagued by calls from home improvement firms, or had to deal with electricity suppliers on the door step or even have to run into JJB Sports to avoid yet another chugger on the high street (no offence to JJB it’s just not a shop I usually frequent).
Now imagine having to deal with that same intrusion when on a hospital bed, having just undergone major abdominal surgery, or having pushed a whole human out of an are which is quite frankly poor designed to undergo such a procedure in my honest opinion. You lie there bleeding, exhausted (post natal wards are not the most relaxing of places to get any sleep) gazing in wonder at the little curled up beauty next to you in that plastic crib… then whoosh your curtain goes back and a woman enters asking for your details. You stare at her blankly for a bit but take in the white tunic and assume she is hospital staff or official in any way. She wants to take a photo of your baby which will mean waking her up, that can’t be right can it? When you ask why you may be told the real reason or you may hear what so many new mothers’ hear “It’s for security reasons”. It is not for security reasons, it is NEVER for security reasons, that is a complete and utter lie. It is a pressure excuse no different from “let me ring my boss to see if he can lower the offer” or “you could save £x amount on average but only if you sign up today”. Only this time you don’t have the benefit of being able o put your phone down, or shutting your front door or dodging into JJB (again no offence intended). This time you are bleeding, exhausted, emotional and that’s even with a birth going well. Imagine you have not had a straight forward birth, that your baby is not actually with you or that they are ill in NICU? Not all midwives tell the Bounty lady which Mums to not visit. I witnessed one Mum bursting into tears at questioning from the Bounty lady as to where her baby was to which she just tutted at her and turned her heels and left. No sorry, no comforting words, there was no commission to be made. This same woman later ripped open my curtains when I was having my catheter removed, she exposed me to the whole ward (thankfully outside of visiting hours) and the midwife chased her off the ward. Fortunately the catheter was still in place at this point because I was literally pissing myself laughing at the choice words used. Bounty claim on their website:
When we meet you in hospital, we will:
- ALWAYS check first with the midwifery team if we can visit you
- Be a PROFESSIONAL, friendly face – it is a real privilege to be one of the first to meet you and your newborn
- NEVER interrupt you if you are sleeping or if you are feeding your baby
- Give you CHOICE – you are not obliged to be contacted in future in order to receive a free Bounty pack or a child benefit form
- In hospitals where we provide a service, we will offer to take professional PORTRAIT photographs of your baby if you would like – any decision to purchase can wait until you get home
This is at odds with comments and personal stories from those who have signed the petition and contributed on Mumsnet and Twitter.
Back to you post birth. You are then informed that the pack she is carrying holds your child benefit form and you must fill in your details to receive it. At no point are you told what happens to the information on the card. Well what happens is this. Bounty makes its money, not from running a forum like they are claiming in an attempt to discredit Mumsnet’s involvement, but by SELLING your details and your baby’s details to its partners. Businesses that sign up with Bounty specifically to buy your information. There is no opt out on this either, once they have your details you have to contact each and every company to get them to remove it. Even if you have sadly suffered the loss of your baby and each mailing through the door, each email, each telephone call is another stab in the heart they keep coming because Bounty keep selling them on. Eventually the baby related items stop. Which is good. But then the life insurance, the house insurance, the holidays with kids clubs mailings start. You are never free from Bounty’s influence.
If you do decide to buy the photos, and lots of women like them which is fabulous I just hope you, dear reader, were not pressured into buying more than you can afford, did you know that Bounty keep those images on their database and website for 5 years? In an age where we are increasingly wary of the information and images we put out onto social networks and the internet Bounty have got your child’s photos for FIVE YEARS. You will inundated with emails reminding you about these photos and the photo packs they offer until either you crack or they remove the photos as your child starts school.
The NHS in this country is a marvellous thing. No, no stay with me on this. As with any healthcare it has its down sides and no nothing is perfect, however one big claim that the NHS has is that at no point during NHS care (with the exception of dentistry) does money change hands from patient to provider. All are treated equally no matter what wealth, creed, race etc. How bloody fantastic is that?! Except in the case of maternity care. Bounty are not in partnership with the NHS in the way Macmillan or other charitable trusts are, they are in a business with the NHS. The pay to access women outside of visiting hours, they pay to gain your information to sell onto their partners, partners such as formula milk companies who include promotional material for follow on milk in the Newborn packs. Why do they do that? Follow on milk cannot be used until after 6 months so why does a new Mum need that? You soon realise that formula companies are not allowed to promote or advertise infant formula so they found a go around the law. UNICEF is currently working with hospital trusts to encourage Baby Friendly Status. One of the key aims of this is to promote breastfeeding to all mothers who are physically able to breastfeed. Bounty’s promotion of formula goes against this. In addition Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue and Customs (HMRC) pay Bounty £90,000 per annum to distribute the Child Benefit form. A form you can download online or pick up from the Post Office. £90,000 per year to give out these forms which are used as a pushing point to sign over your details. Not good enough, especially as recent changes mean that not everyone is eligible to claim child benefit. Much more sensible is to give them out at registry offices as you need the birth certificate to claim.
Finally I just want to say this. Bounty are not providing the service they do out of the goodness of their hearts, nothing in this world is truly free and if you are desperate for the mini pot of Sudocrem you can get a 6 pack on ebay for £1.49 free P&P.
Well the campaign is still ongoing and has entered a new phase with the support of Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Health Services, to highlight the need for reform in the maternity services partnership with commercial companies. The Bounty Mutiny campaign is helping to highlight how a commercial company is getting access to personal details in a misleading way by being tied in with the child benefit forms. The latest development is Mumsnet getting in contact with Treasury minister David Gauke asking him to reconsider the contract with Bounty, costing tax payers £90,000 per year when the forms are available online or could be available in paper form at registry offices.
How can I get involved?
- Sign the petition: http://www.change.org/bountymutiny this will help to accurately show those who are dissatisifed with how Bounty operate in our NHS hospitals
- Write to your Trust, Mumsnet have a handy guide here, to express your views about the Bounty service.
- Tweet about it, the #BountyMutiny hash tag is bringing together like minded people from all walks of life to highlight the aims of the campaign
- Complain directly to your hospital and Bounty if you were subject to treatment you did not agree with by one of their reps. Bounty claim they get very few complaints, something they know must be due to their “customers” having a newborn to look after.
Put quite simply commercial reps do not belong on a hospital ward, Bounty must not be allowed to exploit expectant and new mothers in the way they do.