Parents whose children suffer cancer ‘left with huge bills for treatment travel’

A remarkable number of parents who have children with cancer pay thousands of pounds every year on travel for therapy, figures show.

A study from the charity Clic Sargent revealed that some end up in debt and are left with no choice but to live on credit cards to ensure their child can visit the hospital.

On average, families go an extra 440 miles for medication, with 8% flying 1,000 miles or more, the charity stated.

Rachel Holt paid £700 a month on petrol to bring her 11-year-old son Reece for medication and needed help from donations to survive.

Reece, from Overton in Lancashire, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in May 2016.

He was relocated to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, a 130-mile round-trip away from his home.

He was also administered at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre on the Wirral, a 180-mile round-trip.

Treatment took place five days a week for six weeks, and the parents paid out £30 to £40 every day on their credit card for petrol.

Mrs Holt said: “Financially the extra costs we’ve had during Reece’s treatment have been difficult.

“Before this happened we had no comprehension of how much it would all cost.

“During Reece’s treatment, we spent every penny of our savings, borrowed from our family, and our credit card balance went from zero to £1,600 in six months.

“I’d never used our credit card before, but without it, I would have struggled to even get Reece to a hospital for treatment.”

Clic Sargent says, just 6% of parents get help from the NHS’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS), which can assist with travel costs for families with earnings up to £16,000.

A remarkable 78% of people studied in a poll of 106 parents for Clic Sargent was unaware the project existed – this is despite more than 40% saying that support from the Government with travel costs could help them better cope financially.

Clare Laxton, assistant director of policy and influencing at Clic Sargent, said: “Parents are routinely travelling hundreds of miles for their child’s cancer treatment every month, and despite the huge financial burden this causes, tell us they are left largely unsupported by existing Government schemes.

“With a large proportion of families we asked not knowing about the scheme and many families not eligible for some assistance, there is a clear need for governments across the UK to review the travel assistance schemes that currently exist and whether they are getting to the people that need them.”

Clic Sargent has a petition campaigning against cancer treatment prices at www.clicsargent.org.uk/cancercosts