The £570 per month ‘cancer tax’ that affects thousands

Charity reveals full scale of hidden costs including parking fees and loss of income

Cancer victims are being hit with a financial penalty because of their illness, research has revealed.

Transport costs incurred getting to appointments, hospital parking fees and increased heating bills as a result of more time spent at home all contribute to a “cancer tax” that averages out as the same as a monthly mortgage, a report by Macmillan Cancer Support found.

The charity said that of the 324,579 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year, four out of five are hit with extra costs averaging £570 a month.

This year alone, the charity estimates, 269,000 British people will be forced to face the consequences of being told they have the disease – and then deal with the stress of the financial burden it brings.

Ciarán Devane, Macmillan’s chief executive, said: “Cancer comes with a whopping price-tag for many patients. Combined with the current recession and with welfare cuts, the cost of the disease is hitting the most vulnerable hardest. This is a growing problem which cannot be ignored.”

The financial penalties hit almost immediately, as cancer patients in England are charged to park every time they visit a hospital for treatment. That costs on average £38 a month for the two in five patients affected, which could mean a bill of £456 if treatment continued for a year.

Traveling to appointments hits even more patients – an estimated seven out of 10 – and cost an average of £170 a month, or £2,040 a year.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, condemned the charges. “It is a fact that the NHS is not completely free, with services like dental check-ups already operating a system of co-payment and band-based charging,” she said. “So I’m pleased Macmillan has highlighted some of the many surreptitious charges that have become commonplace. While politicians have finally introduced a ‘duty of candour’ into the NHS itself, they have yet to fully adopt it themselves.”

Around 85 per cent of cancer patients see their monthly expenses shoot up by an average of £270 a month after being diagnosed. One in five ends up splashing out £8 a month on over-the-counter or prescription medicines, while more than half experience higher day-to-day living costs of an average £63 a month.

Higher fuel bills of £24 a month – or £288 a year – are experienced by one in three patients as a consequence of the extra time they spend at home. One in 20 is forced to spend £56 a month on home help or live-in support.

The biggest financial burden is through loss of income which affects almost one in three patients, costing them an average of £860 a month.

Macmillan is calling on the Government, businesses and the NHS to act urgently to ease the terrible financial strain on people living with cancer. “We must act now to protect the financially vulnerable from having to foot the bill for their illness,” said Mr Devane.

Case studies

Gillian Hardy, 31, from Plymouth, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011 and had three operations, chemotherapy and a year of the Herceptin drug to treat it. The cost of parking at hospital was a big issue.

“My job doesn’t offer sick pay, so I’ve had to live off statutory sick pay, and paying for parking ate into my weekly living allowance,” she said. “My treatment has been quite lengthy, maybe more so than for other breast cancer patients.”

She has also been faced with paying for parking spaces that aren’t there. “At Plymouth they have a reserved area for oncology patients parking near the chemo unit which is very useful, but it’s often full, and I’ve had confrontations with other people using it to park so they can nip off to the gym opposite. This has been really stressful. The car park management company does nothing to monitor this. So I don’t really know what I’m paying for.

“The only way I have been able to cope with this is by trying to get appointments avoiding peak times and leaving at least 30 minutes’ spare time for finding a space, but this isn’t always possible.”

Emma from Kent, a mother-of-two, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2009. After her illness the 38-year-old lost half of her income while her bills rocketed, leaving her and her children “financially crippled”.

“While I had treatment, losing my hair and having terrible mouth ulcers, I had sick pay from my carer’s job, but a year on I tried to go back to work and couldn’t,” she said. “The illness had left me exhausted and weak.”

Her treatment has seen her income fall from an £800 monthly salary to less than £400 in benefits. She said: “My heating bills tripled as I needed to keep warm following my illness and all the petrol to get to hospital and car parking had left me financially crippled. Worst of all, my kids had to miss out on everything, even school trips as I struggled to put food on the table.

“I’d racked up £1,600 of debt trying to keep my head above water. With food prices rocketing, I often go hungry a couple of times a month so I can put food on the table for  my kids.”

In numbers

£570 The average monthly ‘cancer tax’ for four out of five sufferers – extra costs incurred to cover travelling, parking and heating.

£860 Monthly loss  of income  experienced by  one in three cancer patients.

£456 Cost of parking  at hospital for a year while undergoing treatment.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions