I'm not one to knock the NHS - doubly so, after the experience of the last month - but the exact role and status of Bounty within the maternity ward troubled me somewhat. It turns out I'm not alone - anatomist and TV presenter Alice Roberts has expressed her own irritation.
For those who aren't aware, new mothers are offered a series of Bounty goodie bags. The bonus is that the packs contain a lot of free samples (as well as money-off coupons), but on the flipside you have to give your personal details to get them. While many mothers are no doubt savvy enough to make use of the samples without necessarily being sucked into buying the product, the packs are ethically dubious given that they are specifically targeted at a vulnerable group plagued and guilted by the fear that they must do everything they possibly can for their new child's well-being.
Bounty reps often have offices within the hospital and their packs contain some general information unaffiliated to a particular company (application forms for child benefit, for instance), but they're a private enterprise. This blurring of boundaries between the NHS and Bounty, between public and private, means that the NHS seem to be giving implicit endorsement to this cynical targeting. The reps patrol the wards each day offering (or pressuring) mothers into committing to photo shoots, and it's not made clear that signing up with Bounty is not obligatory - you don't have to surrender your details if you don't want to.
The NHS may benefit in financial terms (in the form of payments to NHS trusts), and in the current climate it certainly needs cash, but the exact nature of the relationship with Bounty and the status of Bounty themselves should be made much clearer - otherwise it's not an overstatement to say that the situation approaches state-approved exploitation.