Page last updated at 23:32 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 00:32 UK

'I skip meals to afford my medication'

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

Amanda Whetstone
Amanda struggles to afford her drugs

A poll by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests nearly half of cancer patients in England are being forced to cut back on basic necessities in order to pay for their prescriptions.

Breast cancer survivor Amanda Whetstone says she regularly skips breakfast and lunch to save money to pay for her prescriptions.

Amanda, 45, from Chessington in Surrey, said: "Although my cancer treatment - the surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy - has finished, I still need medication.

"As a result of my cancer I'm now on three different drugs. They cost me about 44 a month. That may not sound much to some, but I'm struggling financially.

I feel penalised because I have a disease that the government doesn't consider should make me exempt from prescription charges
Amanda Whetstone

"I'm now on statutory sick pay because I've been too unwell to work. My income is 360 per month and, quite frankly, I have barely enough money to live on.

"I budget for everything. I don't go out because I can't afford to socialise. I can't even invite friends over for a meal because I can't afford the food.

"I don't eat breakfast or lunch. The meals I do buy are ones that are on special offer.

"I can't afford fresh fruit or meat. I know that isn't healthy, but I simply can't afford to buy healthy food."

Amanda said she has also avoided going for dental and eye checks because she can't pay the bill.

With winter approaching, she is also worried about rising fuel costs.

"I have stayed awake at night for hours crying, thinking: 'How can I make this work?'

"Fighting cancer is hard enough without the terrible financial worry that comes with it.

"I feel penalised because I have a disease that the government doesn't consider should make me exempt from prescription charges."

Amanda said she had looked into the option of paying a reduced annual fee of for her prescriptions but said she could not afford to pay the lump sum of 102.50.

She was surprised to hear that the prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) scheme, which allows patients to get all the prescription items they need for less than 2 a week, is available by monthly direct debit to help spread the cost of payments.

Alternatively, people who have to pay for more than three prescription items in three months can pay three-month PPC of 27.85.

Patients 'lack money for drugs'
12 Aug 08 |  Health

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