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RCM attacks cord blood collection plan

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A foundation trust has seemingly backtracked on a scheme to offer mothers a private facility to collect blood from their baby’s umbilical cord.

The Royal College of Midwives had strongly criticised the proposed deal between Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Virgin Health Bank, a firm partly owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

The deal, thought to have been the first of its kind in the NHS, would have seen new parents at the Rosie Hospital for women offered the option of having the blood collected and stored by the company for £1,195. The blood is a rich source of stem cells that could potentially be used in future treatments.

The trust’s original statement, released last month, said: “VHB will give parents having babies at the Rosie Hospital the chance to enter into a contract to have the cord blood of their newborns collected and stored rather than discarded, as is current practice.”

However, the trust claimed its statement had been incorrect after Nursing Times asked for details of when during pregnancy the offer to collect the blood would be made to parents. A spokeswoman said the trust was still in discussions regarding the possibility of setting up a cord blood collection deal, and that so far it had only signed up to do the processing and storage for VHB.

The original proposal was attacked by the RCM, which has previously criticised trusts for allowing firms to market photographic services to new mothers.

RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle said she was uncomfortable with “marketing to women at a very sensitive time”. She said: “It is a dangerous incentive for a hospital to be paid to promote a money-making scheme. We are concerned about direct marketing to pregnant women in hospital.”

The original statement said Virgin Group had pledged to “reinvest any profits” made to “further the development of stem cell therapies”.

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