Government answers attack on cancer patient costs

The Department of Health (DoH) has defended its record in the face of growing criticism over the number of cancer patients who are forced into financial hardship after being diagnosed with their disease.

The Independent revealed yesterday that four out of five people diagnosed with having cancer are hit with extra costs averaging £570 a month. That's the same amount as the average mortgage payment.

The figures were calculated by the cancer charity Macmillan, which estimates that 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.

The financial penalties include charges for parking every time a cancer patient has to visit a hospital for treatment.

Those costs alone could mean a bill of £456 for hospital parking if treatment continued for a year.

"No one should pay extortionate amounts to park in an NHS car park, whatever their condition," the DoH said. "Many hospitals provide concessions to patients who go to hospital regularly, including cancer patients undergoing treatment."

The DoH has published a support checklist for doctors and nurses to make sure they give cancer patients the support they need.

But Ciarán Devane, Macmillan's chief executive, demanded more: "We must act now to protect the financially vulnerable from having to foot the bill for their illness.

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