Posted on Tuesday 10 August 2021
Young Lives vs Cancer responds to publication of the NHS England Non-Emergency Patient Transport Review
Last week we were pleased to see the publication of the NHS England Non-Emergency Patient Transport Review and the newly proposed national framework. Non Emergency Patient Transport Services provide funded transport where a medical condition means that a patient would struggle to safely attend their treatment independently. Here at Young Lives vs Cancer we welcome the move towards updated eligibility information and a commitment to collecting more data on patients’ journeys (particularly travel costs and times).
We know that children and young people with cancer and their families are travelling twice as far and spending twice as much on travel costs compared to adults with cancer. They face a 60 mile round trip, on average, to get to treatment. Our research found when treatment is at its most intense, this adds up to £180 a month, if travelling five times a week. This travel is not by choice, can last for two to three years and often takes place at a specialist hospital rather than their local one.
This is why we believe that the universal commitment to transport for all journeys to and from renal dialysis should expand to all treatments for those aged 0-25 years-old with cancer. Particularly given the Review notes that many treatments are now being given closer to home – this is not the case for young people’s cancer treatment which is highly specialised and cannot always be delivered at a local hospital. For example, Proton Beam Therapy is only available at two locations in the UK, Manchester and London, meaning families from all over the UK will be travelling significant distances.
We also welcome the move towards simplifying NHS England’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme and speeding up the process of reimbursements. However, there is limited data available on this scheme and the Review suggests low uptake, which shows this scheme is not fit for purpose.
Many of the families we support are pushed to the edge by the financial costs of cancer, yet they do not qualify for financial support for travel. Our research found that just 6% of parents received help from the scheme yet nearly one in five of parents have struggled to afford food for their children, two thirds of families have struggled to pay bills and one in five have struggled to afford to heat their home – all because of the financial implications of travelling to their child’s treatment.
Young Lives vs Cancer has been calling on governments across the UK to introduce a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund since 2018. Scotland have now led the way by introducing a Young Patient Family Fund. This makes it clear further support is needed for families of young people with cancer.
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