A family who have spent hundreds of pounds on petrol taking their young daughter to hospital for vital cancer treatment say the Government needs to do more to help other families struggling financially.
Melissa and Chris Sayers, from Peterlee have given their backing a campaign by charity CLIC Sargent after new research, released for September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, found that children with cancer are having to travel twice as far, and spend twice as much, on getting to and from hospital than adults.
On average, families of children and young people with cancer face a round trip of 60 miles to get to hospital for treatment, adding up to at least £180 a month in petrol costs. .
Now CLIC Sargent has launched a petition urging the Government to set up a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to help thousands of families afford to get to hospital and back for vital cancer treatment.
Melissa and Chris's daughter Daisy, who is now two, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in November 2017 at just 22 months old.
Daisy’s nearest specialist treatment centre is in Newcastle and the family regularly travel the 26-mile journey to hospital for treatment, which can take anything from 40 minutes to an hour and a half.
Melissa said: “Since Daisy’s diagnosis, we’ve had quite a few trips up to Newcastle for her treatment.
"It depends on what treatment Daisy needs, what tests she needs or what check-up she needs.
"She’s been in and out of hospital with quite unexpected stays when she’s suddenly become ill, and she can be in there for up to three days at a time.
“Travel and car parking is one of the biggest expenses.
"We have two cars, so if I take Daisy to hospital, Chris will come in his car after work – so it’s the cost of both of us getting that.
"I wouldn’t even want to guess at how much it has cost us – definitely hundreds.”
Because of the nature of childhood cancer, different cancer types require specialist treatment - which is only available at a small number of specialist treatment centres across the UK.
That often means families have to travel around the UK to get to treatment – one family is currently travelling over 800 miles to get to the specialist treatment centre.
Melissa added: “Our work has been affected as well so our income has gone down and the multiple travelling back and forth on a regular basis – it’s been hell, we’ve been to hell and back. It’s the added expenses that put added stress on the family.
“The majority of families, you get your wages and you live to that much money – you never expect to have to pay for all the extras that come with a cancer diagnosis.
"The financial impact has been massive on us – it’s something you just never expect but you just have no choice about.
"There definitely needs to be something out there for families to help with the cost of travel.”
Kate Lee, CEO at CLIC Sargent, said: “Being told that your child has cancer is one of the most horrendous situations that any parent can imagine.
"No parent should ever have to worry about not having enough money to take their child to hospital for cancer treatment. The current Government travel cost scheme is not fit for purpose and available to too few families.
"The NHS’ provision of universal healthcare is free at the point of entry yet, in reality families are footing the bill for it.
“We know that cancer costs and families are really struggling financially, leaving families counting pennies, relying on charity grants, borrowing money from family and friends, wiping out savings or facing being plunged into debt.
"This is not good enough and the Government needs to set up a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund so that families can focus on their child, rather than worrying about mounting bills.”
CLIC Sargent is asking the public to sign its petition calling on the Government to set up a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund.
The petition can be seen at www.clicsargent.org.uk/ccam