Cancer patients choosing between treatment and working amid cost of living crisis

Sangita Lal reports on the impact of the cost of living on cancer patients.

Cancer patients are having to choose between lifesaving treatment, or surviving day to day, as the cost of living continues to rise.

The problem isn’t just the rising cost of fuel to get to appointments, but the delay in receiving government benefits.

Cancer charity Maggie’s say patients are having to wait on average a minimum of 13 weeks before they get any financial help, which has led some people to having to sell their homes. 

We spoke to Ray Morphus who lives with chronic lymphatic leukaemia. His treatment means he can no longer work as a joiner and means he can no longer afford his home. 

Ray said: "If you work for yourself you don't get paid to have days off. I don't think people understand that, because they say 'Oh cancer, be brave, be strong', but they don't realise it's not that that's getting you down.

"Choosing whether to go back to work] is a tough decision to make."

Ray Morphus says he can no longer afford his home amid the cost of living crisis

One thing most case studies told me is that coping with their cancer isn’t the hardest thing, it’s the financial pressure of not being able to work through treatment. 

A survey conducted for ITV News shows 56% of people living with cancer have missed hospital appointments because they can’t afford to miss work or because of the rising fuel prices.

Nearly half (48%) said they are considering stopping treatment early.

The survey also shows 69% of patients are considering returning to work earlier than advised because they’re worried about being able to afford getting by each day.

While interviewing Lynn McEntee, she told me how difficult it was when she realised she could no longer work as an NHS carer while going through her radiotherapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, went into half pay in August and from December she’ll have no income. 

She told me she actually wants to return to work early - earlier than advised - to try and pay for Christmas presents for her children. 

Lynn said: "It's hard, there should be more help out there for people in general anyway, but especially when you've got no choice but not to work and there's the cost of living and Christmas is coming up.

"I feel worried. How am I going to pay for getting the kids and grandkids something little for Christmas? How do you explain to kids 'you can't have anything for Christmas this year, sorry'?"

Cancer patients are facing rising energy bills on top of going through treatment.

She’s also waiting for her benefits to come through - something we put to the Department for Work and Pensions. 

They told us: “We understand how difficult and life-altering a cancer diagnosis can be which is why we’re committed to getting people the support they’re entitled to as quickly as possible, and we will backdate awards to ensure no one misses out.

“We support millions of people each year and continue to improve our PIP service by boosting resources and opening up assessments by phone and video, with processing times now down by eight weeks on last year.

“We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable households across the UK – with a further £12bn of direct support committed for 2023-24. This includes additional Cost of Living payments, which will be made in 2023-24 including £900 to households on means-tested benefits and £150 to disabled people.”

But charities say their support is not enough.

Sam Griffiths, a welfare benefits advisor at Maggie's, said: "Patients are going back to work throughout treatment and it's going to have an impact on their recovery time.

"It's really frustrating that the support isn't there when they need it."

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