THE SNP has pledged to increase a fund to help costs for families whose children are in hospital.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced today that her party will commit to investing £5m to expand the Neonatal Expenses Fund, so it covers all young people under the age of 18.

It is the latest pledge from the SNP ahead of the May elections, and comes following concerns raised by parents of children who are receiving regular hospital treatment and who struggle to afford the cost of accommodation, travel and food while away from home.

The cash can be used to help families cover travel, meals and subsistence.

Ms Sturgeon said: "If returned at the election in May, the SNP will deliver a Young Patients Family Fund that will remove a significant financial burden which can prevent families from being near their children when they’re in hospital.

“Spending time at hospital can be a really worrying time for young patients. The SNP wants to make sure that families spend their time caring for their sick child, not having to worry about who will cover the cost of travel, hotels and meals.

“The SNP has a bold vision for the future of Scotland. Make sure to give both your votes to the SNP to deliver this transformative change for our young people and their families.”

The Herald on Sunday highlighted the plight of patients who were being treated at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow for cancer in 2019.

Many parents were struggling to cope with the costs, with some having to travel hundreds of miles to the site as it was the only location able to offer the specialist treatment their children needed.

Most families were eating expensive microwave meals or takeaways as they didn't have access to cooking facilities away from home.

A report by charity ClIC Sargent found that patients had to travel an average of 67 miles to their main treatment centre in Scotland.

Since 2018, the organisation has offered a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to help families facing growing costs, with the SNP's fund aimed at further supporting cancer patients as well as any other young patient needing hospitalisation.

SNP MP Amy Callaghan, who twice survived cancer as a teenager, heralded the move as “ground-breaking”.

She said: "This announcement is ground-breaking for the families of children and young people spending time in hospital.

“I know from experience that having a familiar face close by is a huge comfort during what can be a daunting experience in hospital.

“We know that having the support of loved ones during hospital treatment can improve health outcomes for children and young people and this move will make a real difference to families across Scotland.

“I am delighted the SNP is taking on the suggestion of CLIC Sargent - and I’m sure this will be a decision welcomed by patients, their families and our amazing NHS.”