There are many things parents will worry about when their baby is admitted into neonatal care, whether they can afford to be there shouldn’t be one of them.
In 2013 we asked parents across Britain about the extra costs they faced while their baby was in neonatal care. Over 1,800 parents responded and they told us they were spending £282 extra every week. That means the average family has to find an extra £2,256 over the course of their baby's stay in hospital.
As a result, many parents have found themselves becoming reliant upon credit cards and loans; for some it has affected how much they can see their babies. Worryingly, these additional costs not only affect a family’s bank balance, but contribute to feelings of reduced mental and physical well-being. At a time when their lives have been turned upside down, the very least parents should expect is to not have to add money to their lists of worries.
The main causes for this additional financial strain on families were having to pay for expensive hospital food, overnight accommodation to stay close to their baby, travel costs and loss of earnings.
For more information about our findings see our main report covering Great Britain, as well as our separate findings for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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To address the problems identified through our research, we would like to see:
- Better and more consistent support for parents with these costs from local NHS bodies through free parking, help with travel and meal costs, and free overnight accommodation
- Maternity and paternity leave policy that reflects parents needs if their baby is born premature and sick; so parents don’t have to compromise on vital bonding time with their child.
- Employers to be compassionate and flexible, so parents aren’t penalised or made to feel guilty for missing work when their baby is critically ill in hospital.
- Following our campaign launch, we secured a commitment in 2014 from the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills to review how their policy on parental leave is working for parents whose babies are admitted to neonatal care.
- Government guidance was released to NHS Trusts in 2014 saying that hospitals should be offering free or reduced parking to anyone visiting a long-term or very ill patient.
- Parent and health professionals in many areas across the country have brought about local improvements to financial support for families as a result of the campaign, including through the introduction of meal vouchers for parents so they can buy food at staff prices and reductions in parking charges for parents of babies in neonatal care.
Take action now and help us call on NHS Trusts in England to provide more overnight accommodation so parents can stay close to their sick baby.