Parents to benefit from new neonatal fund

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
About 4,400 babies are born prematurely in Scotland every year

The first parents are set to benefit from a fund aimed at helping the families of premature and sick newborn babies cope with the financial cost of their child being in hospital.

The Neonatal Expenses Fund will be available from 1 April to all parents whose babies are receiving care in a neonatal unit.

It estimates the cash pot will help more than 8,000 families each year.

They will be able to claim for the travel costs of one return journey, parking and up to £8.50 in subsistence costs each day for the duration of their baby's stay in a unit.

About 4,400 babies are born prematurely (under 36 weeks) every year in Scotland, and the average additional cost to parents is estimated to be more than £200 a week.

'They couldn't afford to visit their baby'

Image source, Stephanie Griffin
Image caption,
Mark Griffin leaves hospital with his baby daughter Rosa, five months after she was born prematurely

Labour MSP Mark Griffin had been campaigning on the issue alongside the Bliss charity after his baby daughter Rosa was born 12 weeks early in April of last year.

He told BBC Scotland in December that he had seen parents in distress because they were unable to visit their children in hospital each day because of the travel costs.

He said: "When we were in hospital there were so many families there who were in a real desperate situation - some people in tears, that when they were going home they knew they weren't coming to see their baby the next day because they couldn't afford to pay for a taxi.

"You were paying for travel costs, you were paying for the expensive food every day in hospital.

"Some people were paying for childcare, some people were paying for accommodation. It was racking up. It was easily over £100 a week just for us - probably close to £200 a week - and we were there for five months."

Prof Ben Stenson, clinical lead of neonatal services at NHS Lothian, said it was vital that parents were able to spend as much time as possible with their babies when they are being cared for in neonatal units.

He added: "It can be a challenging and emotional time for parents and one that very often they could not have foreseen or planned ahead for.

"This fund may help to ease any financial worries and allow them to make the journeys to hospital as often as they would like so they can concentrate on being a new parent."

Health Secretary Shona Robison said she hoped that easing the financial costs of getting to and from hospital every would mean parents had one less thing to worry about.

She added: "Having a premature or sick baby is a hugely testing and emotional time for parents.

"We want to ensure they are supported and involved as possible in decision-making around their baby's care, and have more opportunities to bond as a family during these early days."