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22 December 2017, 14:21
A new £1.5 million fund to help parents while their premature babies are in hospital has been launched.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the money would be available to families from April 1 2018 to help with extra costs such as travel expenses and food.
Around 4,400 babies are born prematurely in Scotland each year and estimates indicate the average additional cost to parents is more than £200 a week.
Announcing the details of the new fund on a visit to the neonatal unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Becoming a parent should be the best feeling in the world, but if a baby is born prematurely and needs neonatal care it's an anxious time.
"We also know that it can be expensive, so we have looked at the support available to parents.
"All health boards already offer accommodation when it is most needed and we are working with boards to ensure that there is sufficient, free accommodation for all parents when required.
"This new national Family Fund of at least £1.5 million will be available to parents regardless of income to ease money worries at a very difficult time."
Labour MSP Mark Griffin, who campaigned along with charity Bliss Scotland for extra support for parents of premature babies after his daughter Rosa was born 12 weeks early, welcomed the new fund.
He said he and his wife spent close to £200 a week visiting his daughter in hospital and the main costs were travel, food, accommodation and childcare.
He said: "When we were in hospital there were so many families there that were in a real desperate situation.
"Some people were in tears because they knew they wouldn't see their baby the next day because they couldn't afford to get a taxi.
"It was a really terrible situation so I'm absolutely delighted that this fund has been announced."
Bliss Scotland chief executive Caroline Lee-Davey said: "This fund will help more parents to be with their baby for as much time as possible and to play a hands-on role in their babies' care, which we know is best for babies and families."