30 April 2014
Health Boards need to do more to meet Welsh Government commitment
More than half (56%)1 of cancer patients in Wales are not offered enough information on welfare benefits advice, according to analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The results from the first Welsh Cancer Patient Experience Survey2 show that 2,177 people affected by cancer, who felt they needed it, were not offered enough information on welfare benefits advice by hospital staff.
In addition, Macmillan Wales’ analysis of Health Boards’ Local Cancer Delivery Plans and annual reports shows none of them mention how they plan to meet this key Government requirement.
This is despite there being a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan, which was published in June 2012, to routinely refer everyone to financial advice and support.
The patient experience survey also shows significant variation across Welsh Health Boards and hospital sites.
For those who received care at Velindre NHS Trust, 53% of those surveyed (Figure 1.) reported they had been given enough information on how to access welfare benefits advice. In comparison, only 28% of cancer patients in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board felt they had sufficient information from hospital staff.
Figure 1. 3 Table showing the percentage of respondents who felt they had been given enough information about welfare benefits advice services by hospital staff in each Local Health Board and Trust
Local Heath Board
|Trust Percentage |
| Wales Average || 44% |
| Velindre NHS Trust || 53% |
| Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board || 52% |
| Cardiff and Vale University Health Boar || 43% |
| Cwm Taf Health Board || 42% |
| Hywel Dda Health Board || 34% |
| Aneurin Bevan University Health Board || 31% |
| Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board || 28% |
Previous research by Macmillan Wales highlighted that cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £640 per month4 as a result of their illness. This is due to a loss of income and having to cope with additional costs such as travel to hospital and increased fuel bills as a result of spending more time at home and feeling the cold more following treatment.
Susan Morris, General Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said:”We warmly welcomed the commitment in the Cancer Delivery Plan to routinely refer cancer patients to welfare benefits advice if they need it, but we are extremely concerned that two years on this isn’t happening for everyone who needs it.
“The cost of cancer is a huge problem in Wales and can have a devastating effect on a person’s recovery. Cancer patients should be concentrating on getting through their treatment, rather than worrying about paying the bills.
“Health Boards must do more to ensure people living with cancer are signposted to good quality specialist and timely welfare benefits support to help them cope and manage the financial impact of their diagnosis.”
Sarah Cartwright, 36, mother-of-three from Merthyr Tydfil was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. Sarah and her partner have always been in employment, so the financial impact of her diagnosis came as a real shock.
Sarah said: “I was panicking. I thought ‘we’re going to lose our house, how are we going to pay the bills?’ That’s been more of a worry than my cancer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got cancer or not, you’ve got to provide for your family.
“It’s hard enough that your family’s going through this and they’re watching you go through treatment.
“I was referred to a Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advisor, Jonathan, after one of my appointments. All I had to do was sign a form. Everything was done, he’d done the phone calls, filled out the forms, he’d done everything.
“It’s not a great deal of money but I know my bills are going to be paid out of it. My partner hasn’t got to work himself to death and worry about me and the family as well. The weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I know I only have to fight my cancer, I don’t have to fight the system as well. I recommend that every hospital should have a service like this.”
Macmillan is calling on the Welsh Government to issue guidance to Local Health Boards which clarifies its expectations on how the commitment within the Cancer Delivery Plan should be implemented consistently across Wales. The guidance should include:
- Ensuring people affected by cancer are offered an assessment and written care plan which includes signposting to the welfare benefits advice services people may need;
- Ensuring people affected by cancer are allocated a Key Worker, who has overall responsibility for ensuring a holistic needs assessment has been offered;
- Ensuring Local Health Boards demonstrate in their Local Cancer Delivery Plans and annual reports how they are meeting the Welsh Government commitment to “routinely refer people affected by cancer to financial advice and support”.
Susan Morris, concluded: “We must ensure Local Heath Boards are working with Welsh Government and partner organisations, like Macmillan, to make sure the commitment outlined in the Cancer Delivery Plan is being met - regardless of where people live. With changes in Welfare Reform kicking in, now more than ever, it’s vital that people affected by cancer get the welfare benefits support they need.”
In partnership with local authorities and health boards, Macmillan has established 13 welfare benefits advisor posts in Wales to provide face-to-face advice and support to people affected by cancer.
Over the last three years, they helped over 7,000 people affected by cancer claim a staggering £30.3 million in benefits. They have also helped cancer patients’ access over £1.8 million in Macmillan grants. 5
Find out more about the Counting the Cost of Cancer – Next Steps campaign.
For financial support visit www.macmilln.org.uk/financialsupport or find your nearest face-to-face benefits advisor in Wales, or call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
You can also support Macmillan to continue to raise vital funds to provide our services by calling our Fundraising Support Centre on 0300 100 200.
For further information, please contact:
Carina Parmar - Communications Officer
T: 01656 867976
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way.
We are the nurses and therapists helping you through treatment. The experts on the end of the phone. The advisers telling you which benefits you’re entitled to. The volunteers giving you a hand with the everyday things. The campaigners improving cancer care. The fundraisers who make it all possible.
We are Macmillan Cancer Support.
Notes to Editors
- The Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey showed that of those who wanted information about how to get financial help or any benefits they might be entitled to, 51% said they had been given information (44% yes, 7% yes, but would have liked more) by hospital staff in each Health Board/Trust.
- The Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey is the Welsh Government’s first national survey looking at the care cancer patients across Wales received. Conducted in partnership with Macmillan, the survey was posted to people living with a cancer diagnosis who had hospital treatment between 1 June 2012 and 31 March 2013. 7,352 people completed the survey – 69 per cent of those who were sent it.
Patients were asked 74 questions relating each part of their cancer care from how they were diagnosed to what support they and their family were offered when their treatment ended. The questions also focused on commitments in the Cancer Delivery Plan including asking if the patient had a key worker and if they were offered a written care plan.
- Powys Teaching Local Health Board has been excluded as the majority of cancer patients do not receive their treatment within the Local Health Board boundary, therefore there was not a statistically significant sample to evaluate the Local Health Board’s services.
- The figures are taken from Macmillan’s Cancer’s Hidden Price Tag report which was published in April 2013. The total cost figure includes additional expenditure and loss of income. Unless otherwise stated all cost figures show the mean average for all those responding to the survey, regardless of whether they incurred a cost or not. This means a number of cases where the cost is zero have been included in the averages. If we were just to look at the average cost for those incurring a cost, the figures would be much higher. Three-digit figures have been rounded to the nearest 10 to make them more accessible.
Figures based on a postal survey of 1,610 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. The majority (95%) had received cancer treatment within the last six months. Fieldwork took place between August and October 2012. Results were weighted to be representative of all people with a cancer diagnosis in the UK by age, gender, cancer type and country of residence.
The research was commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre in partnership with TNS BMRB, and part-funded by our partner The RBS Group.
- The figures are based on calculations from January 2011 to December 2013. The figures are taken from quarterly statistical returns which are submitted to Macmillan by Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advisers/Services. Information included in the statistical returns are: the amount in benefits they claimed per person and per year; the total number of cancer patients seen per year and the total amount in Macmillan Grant’s in Wales, some of which Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advisors have helped cancer patients to access.