Cancer patients 'relying on charity handouts' for fuel

Cancer patient about to receive radiotherapy
Image caption Cancer charity MacMillan says many patients need handouts from them to pay fuel bills

Cancer patients are relying more on charity handouts as they struggle to pay rising fuel bills, figures reveal.

Macmillan Cancer Support said it had paid out £2,548,563 to 12,669 cancer patients during 2011, up from £1.4m to 7,369 patients five years ago.

The charity wants a government-commissioned independent review of fuel poverty to prioritise cancer patients.

Macmillan's campaign manager, Laura Keely, said it was "shocking" cancer sufferers needed such help.

'Unacceptable reality'

She said: "To feel too scared to put the heating on because of soaring energy bills is an unacceptable reality for thousands of vulnerable cancer patients who feel the cold more and spend long periods of time at home.

"When the charity was established 100 years ago, founder Douglas Macmillan helped cancer patients by handing out sacks of coal to keep them warm.

"It is shocking that a century on, people who are diagnosed with this devastating disease are still relying on charity help to heat their freezing homes."

The charity says 70% of cancer patients under 55 have less income after being diagnosed, often because their illness affects their ability to earn.

But their fuel bills often rise because they are spending more time at home and often feel colder because of their illness.

Research into fuel poverty for Macmillan suggests those on housing benefit and council tax benefit or with a low annual household income are most susceptible to fuel poverty.

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