One in four cancer patients will stay wrapped up in bed this Christmas because they cannot afford to switch on the heating, according to Britain's biggest cancer nursing charity.
Macmillan Cancer Support said it came across many cancer sufferers who would not be able to live actively in their homes because of near-record fuel bills. Standard fuel bills have fallen by only 4 per cent to an average of £1,239 a year, despite wholesale gas and electricity costs more than halvingf.
Around 6.6m people in the UK are estimated to be in fuel poverty, spending at least 10 per cent of their income on heating and power. According to Macmillan Cancer Support, twice as many cancer sufferers as members of the general public are in fuel poverty.
Professor Jane Maher, its chief medical officer, said: "I see cancer patients suffering from exhaustion during and after treatment all the time. Add the factor of 'feeling cold' to exhaustion and you are left with ... cancer patients who can do little other than go back to bed to stay warm and conserve energy."
She added: "Cancer patients who are depressed or de-motivated are less likely to be active or engage in exercise, yet going about 'normal, daily activities' could improve their well-being and reduce the likelihood of long-term health problems."
Macmillan is calling for the Winter Fuel Payment to be extended to cancer patients who are terminally ill or receiving council tax or housing benefit, and for cancer patients to receive mandatory social support from energy suppliers under new rules in 2011. under the new Energy Bill.