Concerns have been raised about the lack of information being given to cancer patients in Wales about financial support following their diagnosis.
Macmillan Cancer Support said that the recent Welsh Cancer Patient Experience Survey showed that 56% of patients said they were not offered enough information on welfare benefits advice by hospital staff.
This is despite a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan, published in June 2012, to routinely refer everyone to financial advice and support.
The charity said that analysis of health boards’ local cancer delivery plans and annual reports shows no mention of how they plan to meet this Government requirement.
It added that the survey highlighted significant variations across health boards.
Previous research by Macmillan Wales highlighted that cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £640 a month 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 due to having to spend more time at home and feeling the cold more following treatment.
Watch The Cost of Cancer: Macmillan Wales
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.
“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.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said:“The Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan includes a commitment that people diagnosed with cancer should be routinely offered the opportunity to access benefits advice and support as part of the care assessment and planning process.
“The cancer implementation group has said that, over the next year, the role of the key worker will be improved to ensure patients are supported and have access to advice, including information about welfare benefits.”
Age Connects Cardiff is now part of OPAAL’s Cancer Older People Advocacy Project. This project will be recruiting and training older people affected by cancer to provide advocacy support to their peers. This will focus on being wholly personalised and will provide whatever support is required by the patient to enable them to better cope with a cancer diagnosis and the impact this has across the whole of their life. In practice as our pilot has shown the types of support requested include helping to speak with health professionals about treatment and care, emotional support, practical support e.g. arranging transport to access treatment and of course simply having someone there for you, someone ‘on your side’ able to fight your corner when the going gets tough. We aim to influence the Welsh Government to consider routinely offering advocacy support to all those affected by cancer that need it and will be working closely with Macmillan Wales to ensure our services are complementary. For more information about the Cancer Advocacy Service at Age Connect Cardiff please click here