Mumsnet has called for a ban on the practice of allowing sales reps onto NHS maternity wards to target new mothers.
A survey by the website found 82% of respondents thought it was unacceptable for NHS hospitals to allow commercial companies to interact directly with patients on wards.
The survey of more than 1,000 users of Mumsnet, who gave birth after May 2012, was focused on gaining views about sales reps from the company Bounty, who offer packs containing free samples and collect personal details.
The survey found 56% of new mothers felt a Bounty rep invaded their privacy, 60% were not specifically told their personal details would be passed on to other companies and 82% did not think hospitals should allow sales reps access to wards at all.
Mumsnet also said respondents had reported “being hassled by over-zealous Bounty salespeople”, who in some cases implied parents would only be able to claim Child Benefit if they filled in Bounty’s commercial forms.
Other results included 55% of respondents saying the Bounty rep came at an inconvenient time for them and their baby, 48% were not told that giving their details was voluntary and 29% felt pressurised to have their baby’s photograph taken.
Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts, Mumsnet said: “Our users believe it’s time for the government to clamp down on Bounty’s harassment tactics to obtain data from new mothers.
“There is a time and a place for direct sales, and it’s not on postnatal wards, hours after women have given birth,” she added.
In a statement, Bounty said it was “saddened to hear of any individual situation, which suggests we have fallen short of the high standards that mums demand of us and we demand of ourselves”.
“Everyone is aware of the unique and special environment in which we are offering mums our service. We meet thousands of mums every day and treasure this special position and take our responsibilities very seriously,” the statement added.
The company noted that 99% of NHS hospitals “choose to welcome” Bounty on maternity wards.
The statement also included supporting comments from several charities that partner it.
These included Lullaby Trust chief executive Francine Bates, who said: “The Lullaby Trust is pleased that thanks to support from Bounty our life-saving information on safer sleep for babies will reach parents right at the start of their new baby’s life.
“As a small charity, we could not have funded the production and distribution of our new leaflet without the support of Bounty and other key corporate sponsors.”
Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy’s, added: “Tommy’s is proud to partner with Bounty, who offer us an invaluable way of reaching new mums and mums-to-be with advice and information about health during pregnancy, including our joint five point pregnancy plan.”
Meanwhile, Anthea Gregory-Page, deputy head of midwifery at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We have a good working relationship with Bounty, who have been offering services at the trust for more than 20 years.”