27 November 2013
- Report urges action to ease the financial burden of cancer – found to be £7,000 a year
- Third of those diagnosed experience drop in income, while 1 in 4 cannot afford to adequately heat their own home
- Demos calls for greater accessibility to flexible working for sufferers and survivors as part of a culture shift towards ‘cancer-friendly’ employers
The financial impact of cancer costs families the same as an average mortgage, according to a report out by Demos today.
Research shows the financial burden for both sufferers and survivors affected to be on average £570 a month. Demos calculates this to be almost £7,000 a year – equal to the average annual cost of a mortgage in the UK.
The figures in the Paying the Price report come from Macmillan research which questioned 1,610 people affected by the disease.
The findings lead the think-tank to call for a substantial shift in employment culture, including giving those affected a legal right to request flexible work.
Paying the Price found 4 in 5 (83%) of those affected by cancer experienced negative financial repercussions, with the biggest impact coming from lost earnings (experienced by 30%).
Almost three quarters (71%) incurred additional costs from extra travel to and from appointments – an average of £143 a month. Those living with cancer were also more likely than average to go without essential household items, such as electrical goods. 28% were unable to adequately heat their home, leading to ‘heat or heal’ dilemmas in homes across the country.
The report calls for people affected by cancer to be given the same legal right to request flexible working as parents and carers. It goes on to suggest local and national government could lead by example by becoming ‘cancer-friendly’ employers.
Demos also encourages the introduction of a system of part-time sick leave, similar to the model used in Finland since 2007, allowing sufferers and survivors to maintain a steady income while easing their workload.
A ‘new reality’ of cancer survival
The report draws on existing Macmillan research showing that by 2020 almost one in two people (47%) in the UK will get cancer, but medical advances have led to noticeable improvements in survival rates for most types of the disease.
This new reality of cancer survival leads Demos to argue the NHS should do more to actively support individuals and families struggling with the dual impact of cancer costs and squeezed budgets.
One suggestion is offering those diagnosed with a serious disease, such as cancer, a ‘financial health check’ as part of their follow-up care. The Welsh Government’s 2012 Cancer Delivery Plan already specifies that everyone diagnosed with cancer should be automatically referred to financial advice services – and this model could be replicated across the UK.
The report also recommends:
- Extending free patient transport and local taxi services to all cancer patients. It is currently only available to those on low incomes or with special needs.
- Offering greater financial support through NHS services, such as using charities and voluntary services to provide advice to patients in pharmacies and clinics.
- The Department for Health and DWP work together to find “shared savings” by improving employment outcomes for people with long-term and chronic conditions.
Jo Salter, Researcher at Demos and author of the report, said:
'More people surviving cancer is cause for celebration, but also poses a challenge. Survivors have to pick up the pieces of lives they had put on hold during their illness and recovery, with gaps in their careers and finances taking a hit.
'Employers and health services need to adapt the support they offer to reflect this new reality, and avoid the situation that many people affected by cancer are currently finding themselves in, where they are paying a high price for their illness.'
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
'As well as everything else, a cancer diagnosis can be financially crippling. It also hits when someone is at their most vulnerable. Sadly, there is no magic bullet because the financial challenge cancer patients face is often complex and varied.
'The recommendations set out in the Paying the Price report show that everyone and every sector has a part to play in solving this financial crisis for cancer patients.
'Macmillan is calling on the Government, businesses and the NHS to consider these recommendations urgently. People living with cancer should not be left to deal with the terrible financial strain alone. As the report shows, it is good for the individual but also in our self interest to help them.'
Notes to Editors:
1) The report, Paying the price, authored by Jo Salter and Max Wind-Cowie is published by Demos on Wednesday 27 November 2013.
2) The responses regarding the financial cost of cancer come from a total of 1,610 completed questionnaires. These included people with a wide range of cancer types and diagnosis periods, ranging from between weeks to decades prior to completion of the questionnaire. 69% were diagnosed within the last two years and 88% within the last five years.
Questionnaires were conducted by post and surveyed adults with a cancer diagnosis, recruited from a database of callers to the Macmillan Support Line and visitors to a sample of Macmillan Information and Support Centres located in hospitals across the UK between August – October 2012. Results were weighted to be representative of all people with a cancer diagnosis in the UK by age, gender, cancer type and county of residence.
3) The comparable UK mortgage figures come from 2012 housing expenditure date from the Official for National Statistics. The average UK mortgage costs £139.30 a week – an annual sum of £7,243.60. More information: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/family-spending-2012-edition/art-chapter-2--housing-expenditure.html#tab-Analysis-of-housing-costs-for-renters-and-mortgage-holders
4) This research was conducted by University of Bristol and TNS BMRB on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support.
5) Authors of the report are available for further comment or interview. To discuss this and the possibility of case studies please contact Rob Macpherson.
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