This report presents the findings of a process evaluation of the Neonatal Expenses Fund (NEF) during its first year of implementation. The NEF was launched in Scotland on April 1st 2018, enabling parents of babies who need treatment in neonatal units to claim expenses to offset the cost of their travel and meals when visiting their children in hospital. The evaluation aimed to examine the uptake of the NEF over its first year of implementation, to evaluate the process of claiming from the fund, and seek parents’ views on the value of being able to make NEF claims.
The evaluation findings are based on two web-based surveys conducted by the Scottish Government during June and July 2019 and financial data on NEF spending provided by each of the 14 health boards. The first survey asked parents whose children had been treated in neonatal units between April 2018 and March 2019 about their experiences of the NEF. This survey was advertised to parents via Bliss, a charity which supports families of sick and premature babies. It is important to note that the survey respondents were not a representative sample of the whole population of parents with children in neonatal care, meaning that findings must be interpreted with caution and cannot be generalised to all parents in this situation. However, they highlight some of the strengths and weaknesess of the fund and illustrate how the fund is being experienced through Scotland.
The second survey asked hospital staff working in neonatal units and finance offices about their experiences of the implementation of the fund. This was sent to each neonatal unit for staff to complete.
Overall, parent respondents who used the NEF gave positive feedback. The majority agreed that using the fund relieved financial anxieties during a very stressful period, and helped them to visit their children in hospital frequently.
A small number of parents had not been aware of the fund but felt that they would have benefited from it if they had known they could claim. And a small number of parents chose not to claim despite being aware of the fund, and did not think that this affected their ability to visit their child in hospital.
A number of areas for improving the implementation of the NEF were raised. These related to the advertising of the fund, the clarity of information about the fund and how to use it, and the process of making and receiving a claim.