Families of children with cancer ‘left with huge bills for treatment travel’

Some parents of children with cancer spend thousands of pounds every year on travel for treatment, figures suggest.
Reece Holt

Some parents of children with cancer spend thousands of pounds every year on travel for treatment, figures suggest.

Reece Holt needed to make 180-mile round trips for treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Picture: PA

Research from the charity CLIC Sargent found that some end up in debt and are forced to live on credit cards to ensure their child can attend hospital.

On average, families travel an extra 440 miles for treatment, with 8% travelling 1,000 miles or more, the charity said.

Rachel Holt spent £700 a month on petrol to take her 11-year-old son Reece for treatment and needed help from charities to survive.

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

Difficulties paying travel costs

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

He was also treated at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Wirral – a 180-mile round-trip.

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

Ms Holt said: 'Financially the extra costs we've had during Reece's treatment have been difficult.

Credit card debt 

'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 hospital for treatment.'

According to CLIC Sargent, just 6% of parents receive help from the NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS), which can help with travel costs for families with incomes up to £16,000.

Inadequate publicity for travel costs scheme 

In a poll of 106 parents for CLIC Sargent, some 78% were unaware the scheme existed.

This is despite more than 40% saying that assistance from the government with travel expenses could help them cope financially.

CLIC Sargent assistant director of policy and influencing Clare Laxton 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 really need them.'

CLIC Sargent has launched a petition campaigning against cancer costs here

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