Prescription charges impacting upon cancer patients

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer patients are being forced to scrimp and save in order to pay for their prescriptions, a survey by a UK cancer charity has revealed.

Researchers at Macmillan Cancer Support polled 477 cancer patients and found that 44 per cent had cut back on essential items such as food or heating so that they could afford a prescription charge.

Nearly two thirds - 59 per cent - had cut back on leisure activities, such as an evening out, a day trip with family or a holiday - in order to pay for their prescriptions.

Prescription charges have been abolished in Wales, capped in Northern Ireland and are being phased out in Scotland but, despite the government promising a public consultation, there are no signs of the charges being dropped in England.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, many people with cancer require several different prescriptions to treat the various side-effects of their cancer treatment and the charity believes prescription charges are effectively a tax on illness.

Ciaran Devane, the charity's chief executive, said: "It's appalling that cancer patients in England are forced to cut back on basic necessities like food to pay for their urgently-needed medication. People must never be forced to choose between food or medication.

"The government must act now. Patients should be allowed to focus on getting better instead of worrying how they're going to find money for prescriptions."

Catherine Foot, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "These findings are more evidence that the government needs urgently to complete its review of prescription charging."

Ms Foot noted that more and more people are successfully being treated for cancer, but that patients often require several prescriptions over months or even years.

She emphasised: "It is unacceptable if cancer patients are being forced to cut back on necessities to pay for these prescriptions."