Cancer patients in Wales 'lacking support over benefits'

Free Press Series: Janet McDonnell, of Newport, who turned to Macmillan Cancer Supportfor help after feeling she was left in the lurch by Gwent's health board following cancer treatment. Pictured is Janet at home in Newport. (5745698) Janet McDonnell, of Newport, who turned to Macmillan Cancer Supportfor help after feeling she was left in the lurch by Gwent's health board following cancer treatment. Pictured is Janet at home in Newport. (5745698)

TOO few cancer patients in Wales receive the welfare benefits advice they should get through their health boards or NHS trusts through a Welsh Government-backed strategy, claims a leading charity.

And Gwent’s health board is toward the bottom of the pile in providing such advice, according to a Welsh cancer patients survey.

The survey, for the Welsh Government in partnership with MacMillan Cancer Support, received more than 7,300 replies from patients in Wales who underwent treatment between June 2012 and March 2013.

Wales-wide, 44 per cent of those who wanted information about financial help and benefits, said they had been given sufficient information by hospital staff.

Yet the Wales Cancer Delivery Plan launched in 2012 contains a commitment that all patients should be routinely referred for financial advice and support through their health board or trust.

MacMillan Wales’ analysis of the survey reveals that Velindre NHS Trust, a specialist cancer services provider, satisfied most of those under its care (53 per cent) in this respect.

But for Aneurin Bevan Health Board, the rate was just 31 per cent, better only than Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board (28 per cent).

”We welcomed the commitment in the Cancer Delivery Plan to routinely refer cancer patients to welfare benefits advice if they need it, but we are extremely concerned that two years on this isn’t happening for everyone who needs it,” said Susan Morris, general manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales.

“Health boards must do more to ensure people living with cancer are signposted to good quality specialist and timely welfare benefits support to help them cope.”

Janet McDonnell, 49, of Newport, experienced financial difficulties after diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in 2012.

She was advised by breast clinic staff at Nevill Hall Hospital to contact MacMillan Cancer Support for advice and said the support had been “brilliant”.

“It would be very helpful for hospitals to start things rolling for all patients,” she said.

“Welfare and benefits is a bewildering subject, and it can have a knock-on effect. You are ill anyway, and worrying about finances can make it worse.”

Benefits advisers from Tenovus now link with departments treating lung, head and neck cancers, and also haematology, within Aneurin Bevan Health Board, and other clinics refer patients to St David’s Hospice Care or Hospice of the Valleys, which can provide benefits advice.

“Cancer key workers now routinely carry out health and needs assessments and ask about any financial worries the patient may have, and refer onwards appropriately,” said a spokesman.

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