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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 02:12 GMT 03:12 UK
Warning over cancer travel costs
Radiotherapy
The average cancer patient spends 380 on travelling for treatment
Cancer patients are having to pay a "stealth tax" for their treatment because of transport and parking costs, a report says.

Macmillan Cancer Relief found patients paid 380 on average during their treatment to get to and from hospital.

But the costs were often more, because three-quarters of hospitals charge for parking - some up to 30 a day.

Macmillan chief executive Peter Cardy said the financial burden was adding to the stress of treatment.

"It is outrageous that cancer patients should have the added stress of trying to find the money to travel for their life-saving treatment, as if having cancer isn't stressful enough.

"That is why Macmillan is calling on the government to allow all cancer patients to get help with travel costs."

Initiatives to provide more services closer to where patients live - in primary care settings - should ensure that patients' travel costs are reduced and we welcome that trend
NHS Confederation spokesman

Patients on income support are entitled to a travel grant but Macmillan found only one in five hospitals promoted the scheme.

The report said many patients were forced to give up work so the added costs meant that there was less money for basic necessities such as food, children's clothes and household bills.

Cancer patients often have to travel a lot because the nature of their treatment means they have frequent hospital appointments.

Cancer services are becoming increasingly centralised, so some patients face round trips of more than 100 miles.

The travel demands meant paying for them had become a "stealth tax", Macmillan said.

Grant

The charity has called on the government to make sure the travel grant programme, Hospital Travel Costs Scheme, is publicised and extended to include all cancer patients.

It also said hospital parking for cancer patients should be free.

A spokesperson for the NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, said the body recognised the expense of travelling to hospital and car parking was a key concern.

"We agree with Macmillan Cancer Relief that patients should be fully informed about their rights to reimbursement for costs.

"However, some NHS hospitals have a very limited supply of car parking and are unable to provide free parking for all patients which is why charges are used as a way of managing demand.

"In the longer term, initiatives to provide more services closer to where patients live - in primary care settings - should ensure that patients' travel costs are reduced and we welcome that trend."


Your comments

When my daughter was getting treatment for lung cancer her visits for radiotherapy were enabled by volunteers who drove us to the hospitals involved. Surely this could be done in Britain? Most of the volunteers were healthy retired persons who knew their services were greatly appreciated and enjoyed the activity. Their costs of parking and petrol were met by the charity.
Alex Dahn, Bangor, N. Ireland

The comment that car parking "charges are used as a way of managing demand" beggars belief. Do health managers think patients actually CHOOSE to go to hospital for treatment?
Jackie, Kettering, England

Parking is a nightmare and the associated costs are a huge burden on the family budget
Tom Sowerby, Prudhoe, UK
Over the past 3 years my wife has been having regular treatment for cancer and the one thing that annoys me most is when we visit hospital for treatment car parking is a nightmare and the associated costs are a huge burden on the family budget. There is no alternative to using a car to attend hospital so I guess we just have to put up with the expense and hassle.
Tom Sowerby, Prudhoe, UK

Both myself and my husband have leukaemia and generally make hospital visits every 2 months but my husband is in hospital at the moment for 2 weeks and I visit every day, the cost can be up to 6 a day for 6 hours, costing 42 per week at present. If we could get help towards this in the way of a grant it would be very helpful.
Kaye Sanderson, Nottingham City Hospital

Where I used to live in Essex the main hospitals are a very short distance from the rail stations and commuters were using the hospital car park to leave their cars instead of paying for the rail car park. This led to a serious shortage of spaces so charges were introduced to stop this practice. That said I do believe that anyone attending a hospital appointment or visiting should have at least 2 hours free parking and charges after that. This would cover a majority of people who are attending for a legitimate reason and penalize those who abuse the facilities. There should also be a reimbursement opportunity for anyone attending hospital who happens to stay over 2 hours, with the ticket being validated by a member of staff.
Emma S, Basingstok e, UK

I am 40 year old single male and have a mortgage and worked all my life, I have had liver cancer and had to have a transplant but had to return to work after three months due to getting 54 per week (only ssp) and no travel costs with weekly trips to Birmingham
Wayne Chamberlain, Bristol England

Living on the Isle of Wight with our main cancer hospitals in mainland UK, we have an additional burden of car ferry charges. A car, patient and carer could easily have to pay 60 -70 return fare. Another problem we had when my father was receiving long term treatment in Southampton was the travel costs the family had in visiting him. Everyone knows how important family support is during any recovery so this was both a financial and emotional burden.
Mick Watts, Isle of Wight UK

I had cancer throughout 1996 and finding parking was stressful let alone the charges for parking. I was on an extremely low income and knew nothing of any help I could obtain. Parking is now improved at the hospital I attended, having dedicated parking for cancer patients, but, still at a cost.
Lynda Welsh, Lewes. East Sussex

My parents drive 210 miles round-trip (6 hours) once a week in order that my mother can continue her chemotherapy. In addition they have to pay 4 each time for parking. They are both recently retired and the cost is quite staggering. However, far worse is the fact that, during a recent extended stay in hospital, my mother had to relinquish her state pension. For someone who has paid N.I for 30 odd years of their life serving the state as a teacher I find this abhorrent. Made worse by the fact that the conditions of the hospital (including food)were so poor that I suspect the EU has better provisions for the welfare of livestock.
Mike, London

When my son was being treated for cancer, we had to travel to hospital frequently, and to be fair we were given a "pass" that allowed us to park without charges, and even park in the staff car-park. Having said that, the cost of petrol and time off work was down to us to find. Even then, we were helped by a local charity with a small mileage payment each week. All this help was because our son was only 11, I can see that adult patients and families could be surprised by the costs of parking in some hospitals, some days we had to travel to three different hospitals in the same day. I think regular visitors to hospitals should not be charged, if they are in for treatment for example, but casual visitors should, such as those visiting relatives. Perhaps 3 car parks, Patients, Staff and Visitors with appropriate charges/passes for each.
Dave, Halifax

If you make concessions for one illness then it should be made for all
J Hodgson, Swindon, UK
If you make concessions for one illness then it should be made for all. I have an ongoing illness which necessitates regular hospital visits. Then there are prescription charges and other items which are not provided by the NHS and have to be paid for privately. Perhaps I should get financial help too?
J Hodgson, Swindon ,UK

A few years ago my partner was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a type of cancer. He was treated as an outpatient which often meant he had to travel to hospital every day. The hospital car park was overcrowded and expensive, it also made no distinction between patient and visitor parking, so healthy people were parking right by the entrance, while in some cases patients attending for treatment could not even find anywhere to park. My partner was on income support, and so he was able to claim his travel costs back. However, this claiming process was tedious and long-winded and involved standing in a small, airless, hot office for up to an hour: not the most pleasant environment if you have just undergone chemotherapy, and he had to do it every single day.
Jessica, London, UK

My mother is not a cancer patient but has been in intensive care for 2 months and in hospital for nearly 3 due to a blundered routine operation which nearly killed her. My father and I have spent a fortune on fuel and parking costs (even though he is also disabled with a disabled badge) as we both visited every day. We initially went in together but once she came out of sedation and life support the Intensive Care Unit wanted us to come in as often as possible to stimulate her and help the physios etc. She is recovering at home now but we have spent 100 on parking between us and there are the fuel bills which has been an expense neither of us can really afford on top of the stress of everything else.
Alison, Tonbridge, Kent

NHS treatment is free and this includes ancillaries such as board and lodging. It is also paid from taxpayers' money. Parking fees are an unjustified form of local taxation on the sick and their carers. One does not visit a hospital for pleasure but to receive treatment or visit friends and family. Supposedly the parking charges are to manage demand but there is often no reasonable alternative to using a car - public transport may be unsuitable or unavailable and taxis are expensive. Use of the ambulance service poses another burden on the health budget. My local hospitals impose parking charges which are much higher than in comparable commercial locations. The charges should be scrapped and alternative means of raising funds found.
Steve Binysh, Woodford Green, Essex

This is so true. I have AIDS and had cancer (now in remission) - the two departments can never schedule appointments on the same day. Even when they do a simple appointment that includes a test can turn into a whole day spent hanging around the hospital. If one chooses to travel by private transport (sometimes essential when it is a real struggle to get to hospitals by public transport when you are feeling unwell) then you get a double whammy sitting in the hospital whilst the parking bill escalates. Then try holding down a full time job at the same time. Whilst you may get sympathy from your colleagues but that doesn't count when there is a deadline to meet. As far as the NHS is concerned we have all the time in the world to sit and wait.
N, London

Whilst I think help should be given with travel costs I don't think that parking should be free only for cancer patients. What about those on dialysis? They also spend a great deal of time going to and from hospitals. In fact anyone with a chronic illness may be required to travel a lot. I dislike hospitals charging for parking but unfortunately it is necessary.
Lianne, Knowles, UK

My wife works at a local hospital and she along with all the other hospital staff have to pay to park where they work! Will they next have to pay to work there?
Joe, Nottingham

I also had to pay a private dentist to have my teeth taken out for radiotherapy, followed by false teeth to replace them 9 months later. 700 in total. I did have a parking ticket but no help with the fuel costs, it was a 3hr round trip, I have forgotten the distance. It was tough.
Linda Butler, York, England




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