4. Conclusions and Recommendations
4. a. Conclusions
This evaluation has examined the spending on the NEF during its first year of operation, the process of administering the NEF, and parents’ views on their experiences of using the fund. As noted in the method section, however, it is important to note that the sample of parents surveyed is not representative of the wider population, and therefore the findings from the parent survey contained in this report cannot be generalised to the wider population.
In total, £235,220.70 was spent on the Neonatal Expenses Fund across Scotland during the 12 month evaluation period. The largest proportions were spent on meals and mileage. The average monthly spending was £4620.58 higher over the full 12 months than the average monthly spend during the first four months.
Of the parents who used the NEF, most felt that it reduced their anxieties about money while their babies were ill, and removed barriers to spending time with their children in hospital. None of the small number of parents who knew about the fund but did not make a claim felt that not claiming inhibited their ability to visit their children in hospital.
Some parents identified a gap in the provision of the NEF, commenting that they were unable to claim because their children remained in hospital but were moved to hospital wards outside the neonatal unit. This meant that they became ineligible for the NEF despite their need for financial support remaining unchanged.
Information and support
It is clear that not all parents of children who spent time in the neonatal unit were aware of the NEF, meaning that some parents missed out on claiming either because they never knew about it, or because they had not known about it in time to retain their receipts.
Issues with the clarity of information were also raised, with some parents being unsure about issues including whether they were eligible to claim, where to submit their claims, what they were allowed to claim, and whether both parents were allowed to make claims for a shared trip.
Process of making NEF claims
Parents who made claims were generally satisfied with the process of claiming, with a significant majority finding it easy to fill out the form, submit a claim, and get assistance where necessary from staff.
The main concerns raised by staff and parents about the process of using the NEF related to the formatting of the claims form, some parents needing to travel to other hospitals to submit claims forms, and the speed of processing payments.
4. b. Recommendations
The evaluation gives rise to the following recommendations:
- Explore ways to enable parents to continue to claim from the NEF if their baby is moved to a different hospital ward away from the neonatal unit
- Allow both parents/guardians of a child to claim food and travel expenses when they are both travelling to hospital on the same day
- Consider trialing a number of different methods for advertising the scheme to work out which methods are most effective in encouraging take-up
- Give each parent a clear, detailed information booklet when a child is admitted to the neonatal unit covering eligibility, entitlement and how to claim
- Ensure that all parents are explicitly informed of the NEF on arrival at the neonatal unit and where they can find further information
- Ensure that posters and flyers are clearly visible in all neonatal units
- Ensure that the wording on advertising makes clear that all parents are eligible to apply
- Ensure that the following are made clear to staff and parents, and are applied consistently across neonatal units and health boards:
- Where to submit a claim
- What exactly parents are entitled to
- Whether one or both parents can claim when visiting a child on the same day
- Whether receipts are necessary to make a claim
- Develop provision of an online claims system to reduce the time that parents spend travelling to finance offices and waiting for claims to be checked
- Develop a more user-friendly claims form (available in online and paper formats) which allows for a larger number of claims to be made at one time
- Widen the range of reimbursement options, so that parents can be reimbursed by the means that suits them best (e.g. cash, cheque or bank transfer)
- Allow all parents to submit their claims at the hospital in which their child is being treated
- Allow the purchase of food outside of hospital grounds
- Consider the possibility of removing the need to provide receipts for the purchase of meals