Posted on Tuesday 29 August 2023
“It was costing us £52 in parking for a few days” Charity finds two thirds of young cancer patients have to pay for hospital parking
- 65% of young people with cancer and families pay for parking while on treatment
- One in ten young people with cancer and families spend more than £50 a month on parking
- 93% travel by car to treatment, which means having to park
- 71% of young people and families are struggling to afford travel costs to hospital
New research from charity Young Lives vs Cancer shows 65% of young people with cancer and families are having to pay for parking when going through treatment. The charity has been campaigning for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to help with travel costs to hospital after finding seven in ten are struggling with these extra costs. Today (Tuesday 29 August) the charity launched a new report into the specific costs and impacts of parking.
Young Lives vs Cancer launched its #RunningOnEmpty campaign in May 2023, after its research found young people and families of children with cancer spend an average of £250 a month on travel costs including petrol, congestion charges, public transport and taxis, and have to travel an average of 350 miles a month. They launched a petition calling for better financial support to help young people and families face the costs of travel.
In addition to calling for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund, the charity believes the UK Government should take action so that children and young people don’t have to pay to park to attend hospital in England. Their research found that, despite a range of concessions for parking in place across the UK, 65% are having to pay to park both at hospital sites and in off-site car parks. The average spent on parking is £24 a month, but for many this cost is much higher.
Jasmin Sarll, from Chelmsford in Essex, knows exactly how expensive parking can be. She had to travel up and down to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London after her three-year-old son Hugo was diagnosed with cancer.
On top of £350 a month for fuel, and other costs like congestion charges, Jasmin and her partner would also have to pay for parking too. It took a few months to get their blue badge, which left them with little options of where to park. They had to find an off-site car park, which became very expensive.
Jasmin said: “If you don’t have a blue badge is pretty impossible to park – so we found a car park at a hotel down the road but it was £1 an hour so if we were there for a few days, it was costing us £52 in parking.”
Hugo, who is now in remission, went through months of treatment and had to travel up to London sometimes for several days a week. They would also have to pay for parking every time they visited their local hospital too.
Victoria Jones, 23 from the Isle of Wight, had to pay up to £20 a time to park when she travelled over to Southampton for treatment. She was diagnosed with lymphoma at just 21 years old and travel costs, including ferry tickets, petrol, parking, taxis would cost her hundreds of pounds every month.
She said “I could be in hospital for seven hours – they do your clinic and chemo on the same day so you’re parked there all day and then it costs an absolute fortune.
“As much as people say ‘it’s only £20’ that £20 is my week’s food.”
Victoria was struggling so much with the cost of travel that halfway through her treatment she considered stopping it all together. She had already lost her flat and was struggling on sick pay from work. Young Lives vs Cancer were able to offer her grants that kept her going but, as they are one-off, they can only help so much.
As well having to pay to park, many young people and parents and carers told Young Lives vs Cancer how finding a space can be like a ‘lottery’. Young people and families would spend a considerable amount of time searching for a space and often resort to parking off-site when they may have been eligible for free parking at the hospital, so incurred additional costs.
Donna Dow, from Oxford, had to pay for off-site parking when her four-year-old daughter Imogen was going through treatment.
Donna said: “they offer you free parking and we’re really grateful for it but there’s never any spaces so for the last three months we’ve paid for parking. It’s about £9 a day and then sometimes we have to extend it.”
Young Lives vs Cancer found that many young people and families, like Imogen’s, struggled with parking as they couldn’t predict how long they would be on the ward for treatment – some parents and carers even had to leave their child to go across the hospital to extend their ticket or move their car. One parent told the charity: “the outside parking was three hours maximum…we would go in and I’d have to leave my daughter with a nurse, so I could go and move the car .”
Young people with cancer and their families are spending an average of £24 a month on parking, but for some this cost is much more. One in ten have to spend more than £50 a month. This is on top of the extra £250 a month on other travel costs, like petrol, taxi fares and congestion charges, leaving over 70% of young people and families struggling financially. 27% reported having to cut back on food in order to pay for their travel to hospital.
The charity is calling for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund, to help young people with cancer and families get better financial support to help with travel. They believe that alongside this, parking should be free for children and young people with cancer attending NHS hospitals and more needs to be done to tackle the impact of parking costs.
Helen Gravestock, Director of Policy, Influencing and Voice at Young Lives vs Cancer said: “Young people with cancer need specialist and age-appropriate care, which is often provided far away from home. They and their families shouldn’t have to worry about how they are going to afford to get there. Each month young people and families are having to find an extra £250 for travel and on top of that, hundreds of pounds every year to pay to park every time they visit the hospital for treatment which in some cases can be for several years. It’s not right.
“This is why we are calling on the government to take action and introduce a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund, and make sure no young cancer patient has to worry about paying for parking, so they can focus on what matters – getting through treatment.”
Young Lives vs Cancer has launched a petition calling on the government for better financial support for young people with cancer and their families: www.younglivesvscancer.org.uk
Throughout December, Mirror readers will learn of the support Young Lives vs Cancer provides to children and young people with cancer and their families and be invited to donate towards their Christmas fundraising appeal.
Young Lives vs Cancer sees Autumn Statement as a missed opportunity to provide better financial support to children and young people with cancer and their families