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Stealth tax for cancer patients

4th April 2006

03032006_CarParkBarrier1.jpgMacmillan Cancer Relief says many patients are paying a "stealth tax" and have to chose between finding money for hospital travel and basic necessities.

In its report, Free at the Point of Delivery?, travel costs incurred by cancer patients amount to a stealth tax, according to Macmillan Cancer Relief, a UK charity. Cancer patients visit their hospital about 60 times during their treatment "and many are charged up to £30 for a day's parking." Poorer patients often have to go without basic necessities in order to fund hospital travel.
 
The charity surveyed 292 hospitals with cancer centres across the UK and found three out of four were making money by charging patients for parking. Apparently, only one in five said they promoted a scheme which allowed some cancer patients to claim this money back.

The charity claimed that patients were paying an average of £380 a year on travel, and that costs are increasing as cancer services become increasingly centralised requiring longer journeys to hospital.

Macmillan argues that cancer patients are a special case because of the frequency of visits they have to make to hospital to see specialists, obtain chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

The Department of Health said the most needy patients did get help with costs, including those on income support, working tax credit or child tax credit and their dependents or escorts. Patients on income support and other benefits such as Disability Living Allowance are eligible to reclaim travel costs through the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme.

But the charity's research suggested only a handful were promoting this to patients and is calling on the government to allow all cancer patients to get help with their travel costs."

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