Cancer patients who struggle to pay their energy bills: Thousands are behind with one in four owing more than 200As much as 2.8million is owed by sufferers to heating companies in the UKThree in ten said that they have had to turn off the heating in the last three monthsAccording to Macmillan Cancer Support a third wore outdoor clothing inside
08:55 GMT, 27 December 2012
Around 27,000 cancer patients in the UK are behind with paying their fuel bills
Thousands of cancer sufferers are caught up in a 3million energy bills nightmare after falling behind with their payments, claims a leading charity.
Around 27,000 cancer patients in the UK are behind with paying their fuel bills – with the debts of one in four exceeding 200.
As much as 2.8million is owed by sufferers to heating companies in the UK, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support.
A YouGov poll of cancer patients in the UK found over half (54 per cent) of those diagnosed within the last two years are worried about the cost of heating their homes this winter.
Three in ten said that they have had to turn off the heating in the last three months even when they needed it on to keep their fuel bills down.
Worryingly, one in three surveyed said that they had even put on outdoor clothes while inside their homes to try to keep warm.
This is all despite the fact that people going through cancer treatment feel the cold more and spend long periods of time at home, says the charity.
Its survey of more than 500 recently diagnosed cancer patients found one in 20 is currently in debt to their heating provider, the equivalent of 27,000 nationally.
Of these, 23 per cent owe more than 200, while 15 per cent owe between 101 and 200.
Almost four in 10 has debts of between 500 and 100, while the remainder owe lesser sums.
Around 27,000 excess winter deaths are expected this year, including avoidable fatalities among older people, says the charity Age UK, with living in a cold home being a ‘major factor’ in two out of five extra winter deaths.
Those living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones.
Gail Lunde, 50, who used to work with people with special needs before being diagnosed with gynaecological cancer in 2009 and again in 2012, lives at her London home with her two grown-up sons.
She said ‘I’ve always paid my way but since my first cancer diagnosis three years ago I had to give up my job and it’s been a financial nightmare of debt.
‘I’m still struggling to pay off my fuel bills from last year.
‘It means a cold home because I can’t afford the heating, wrapping up in extra layers of clothes and worrying about my sons getting ill as a result. At one point I couldn’t sleep for four nights worrying about it all.’
As much as 2.8 million is owed by sufferers to heating companies in the UK, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support
Mike Hobday, Director of Policy and Research at Macmillan Cancer Support, said it has developed a programme with npower to help people affected by cancer and fuel poverty with advice and assistance with bills and arrears.
He said ‘Our research shows just how dire the financial situation has become for some people living with cancer in the UK.
‘Thousands of cancer patients are falling behind with their energy bills and resorting to turning the heating off, even though it’s vital for their recovery that they keep warm.
‘Cancer patients simply cannot afford to meet rising fuel prices at a time when many suffer a loss of income – it is appalling that they are being punished for their condition. It’s high time we put a stop to cancer patients suffering in fuel poverty.’
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK said ‘It’s an absolute scandal that tens of thousands of older people will become ill or die this winter because they are unable to keep warm. Not only is this resulting in an incalculable human cost but the NHS is spending more than a billion pounds on treating the casualties of cold every year.
‘At the root of the problem are badly insulated homes, which together with cripplingly high energy prices, are leaving millions of older people having to choose between staying warm and energy bills they can afford.
‘We are calling on all local authorities to recognise the issue as a major health priority and make sure they are doing everything within their power to keep older people warm. ‘