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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 18:15 GMT
Parent travel costs call
Child name tag
Visiting a sick child can be stressful - and expensive
The parents of children in hospital miles from their homes should be able to claim travel costs, says the Royal College of Nursing.

When children are in specialist centres they may be some distance from their home towns, and many hospitals do not have facilities to help parents stay close by.

At present, families can apply for a means-tested refund for their costs of travel to hospital for treatment.

There's a desperate need for parents and other family members to be able to visit their children in hospital.

Fiona Smith, Royal College of Nursing
However, once the child is an inpatient, the costs of visiting can only be met through applications to a discretionary fund at the hospital.

There is no guarantee that there will be enough money to pay for every visit the family wants to make.

Now an Early Day Motion has been tabled in the House of Commons calling for the situation to be urgently reviewed by the Department of Health.

Rare disorders

This move has been backed by the Royal College of Nursing.

Fiona Smith, its nursing adviser in paediatric nursing, said: "There's a desperate need for parents and other family members to be able to visit their children in hospital.

"Children's nurses know that the support and reassurance given to these children by their families makes a real difference to their stay in hospital."

The charity Contact a Family works with the families of children with rare disorders.

Spokesman Jill Harrison said: "We are delighted that this issue is to be raised before Parliament.

"There is a statutory scheme to help people visit family members in prison and it seems unfair that parents of an ill child are denied this kind of support."

Information is available for parents who need to know about the benefits to which they may be entitled when looking after a sick child.

Contact a Family's free helpline is on 0808 808 3555, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.

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