News

Rules on fast-track benefits for terminally ill claimants need reform, say cancer nurses

Patients who outlive clinicians' six-month predicted survival date face reduced payments

Patients who outlive clinicians' six-month predicted survival date face reduced payments


Picture: iStock

A nurse working for a leading cancer NHS trust has called for a national campaign to update the benefits system for women with secondary breast cancer.

Claire Gaskell, a Macmillan secondary breast cancer clinical nurse specialist (CNS) at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, said the claims process for people who are terminally ill is an ‘outdated' and a 'grey area’.

Ms Gaskell raised the issue at a Breast Cancer Care Forum meeting of secondary cancer CNSs in Sheffield.

Clinical declaration

If a person is terminally ill they can apply for state benefits, including personal independence payments (PIP) under special rules for terminal illness (SRTI). This should speed up claims and may allow payment at an enhanced rate. However, to make the claim, a doctor, consultant or specialist nurse is required to complete a DS1500 form, confirming the patient’s death can be ‘reasonably expected’ within six months. The forms and claims go to independent assessors.

'These women have a progressive illness that they know will take their lives. Is it fair for their benefits to change if they are still alive three years later?'

Claire Gaskell, Macmillan secondary breast cancer clinical nurse specialist, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust 

The benefit is reviewed after three years – if the claimant is still alive.

Ms Gaskell told Cancer Nursing Practice: ‘These women have a progressive illness that they know is going to take their lives. Is it fair for their benefits to change if they are still alive three years later?

‘If they are assessed again for their benefits they may outwardly look fine, but they are not, they are still terminally ill. We have had terminally ill women approach us who have said they were going to lose their benefits, including their cars after being assessed.’

Difficult for patients to understand

Breast Cancer Care secondary breast cancer clinical nurse specialist, Catherine Priestley, said: ‘The fact terminally ill patients already accessing benefits may have these withdrawn in the future if they live longer, is something that is very difficult for patients to understand. This needs to be reviewed.’

‘Healthcare professionals really need to look at what they are telling us and make sure it is accurate’

Barbara Roberts, case manager, Department for Work and Pensions

In July, Welsh Labour MP Madeline Moon called for the six-month predicted survival declaration to be scrapped, saying that it penalises people whose disease progression deviates from that limit.

Barbara Roberts, a Department for Work and Pensions case manager who deals with special rules for the terminally ill, said: ‘It’s not an absolute science. Fourteen weeks before the three years is up we contact claimants and say they need to make a new claim. If they don’t meet the criteria for special rules they may be transferred to normal rules and could be referred for an assessment.

‘Healthcare professionals really need to look at what they are telling us and make sure it is accurate.’

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs