Baby Milk Action press release 19 January 2013
Members of the Nurses and Midwives Board of Ireland have written to their Chief Executive Officer calling for the Board to remind members of the requirements regarding independence. This follows the attempt of formula companies to attach their band names to health workers through sponsoring awards organised by Maternity and Infant magazine. Last November, Philomena Canning refused her award when she learned it would have branded her the SMA Midwife of the Year. The letter points out that the Code of Professional Conduct states: "The nurse should avoid the use of professional qualifications in the promotion of commercial products".
No response has been received from the Board at the time of writing.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Dr Maura Pidgeon, CEO
The Nurses and Midwives Board of Ireland
18/20 Carysfort Avenue
28th December 2012
Dear Dr Pidgeon,
We are writing to express our concern about the participation of nurses and midwives in the Maternity & Infant Awards, an annual televised event organised by the commercial magazine Maternity & Infant since 2008. Formula manufacturing companies have been leading sponsors of the Awards where branding in 2012 was by SMA, Cow & Gate, and Aptamil. Award recipients and a companion of their choice are invited to a complimentary reception and luncheon for the awards ceremony held in one of the most exclusive hotels in the country.
A key role played by nurses and midwives in infant health and welfare is the promotion of breastfeeding as the most appropriate and safest form of infant feeding. Their professional integrity is gravely undermined by accepting the gift of an award and hospitality sponsored by formula manufacturing companies that endorse infant formula feeding by association.
An Bord Altranais Code of Professional Conduct (2000) states:
The nurse should avoid the use of professional qualifications in the promotion of commercial products...
Furthermore, the Practice Standards for Midwives (2010)
… prohibits donations of free or subsidised supplies of breast-milk substitutes or other products, as well as gifts or personal samples to health workers.
In a statement by Ashville Media, the publishing company of Maternity & Infant magazine on Friday 16th November 2012, sponsorship by Pfizer/Wyeth and Danone of future awards seems set to continue:
In the interest of infant safety we are calling on An Bord Altranais to take a leadership role and ensure that nurses and midwives cease to promote infant formula by association with the Maternity & Infant Awards sponsored by formula manufacturing companies. This can be achieved by An Bord Altranais demanding that the categories of nurse and midwife are excluded from future Maternity & Infant awards, and by publishing a position statement on the awards in the Bord Altranais News. We are also calling on An Bord Altranais to appeal to the Irish Medical Council to do likewise so that all professional categories are excluded from future formula-branded awards in a bid to guard infant health and safety. The lack of any intervention in this issue on the part of An Bord Altranais may communicate a message that our regulatory board joins in the celebration of the awards, which could mislead nurses and midwives about the consistency of participation with standards of professional practice and conduct.
[Over 100 midwives, nurses and students registered with the Board - see attachment]