Cancer patients need more financial help, charities say

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Media captionEric Mathias has been fighting prostate cancer since 2007

Two of Wales' biggest cancer charities say they have been "inundated" with patients requesting financial support advice.

Tenovus Cancer Care said it was facing a "crisis", while Macmillan Cancer Support said it was working "flat out".

It comes as more people are being diagnosed in Wales and at a time when survival rates are at an all-time high.

The Welsh government said health boards had been given guidance to help signpost patients to financial support.

The charities have said the pressure on them to help with "the hidden cost of cancer" is increasing as more patients live for longer with the consequences of the disease.

Both help patients to manage bills, apply for welfare benefits and give support with appeals and tribunals.

Claudia McVie, chief executive of Tenovus, said it was the first time in nine years it had a waiting list.

"It's just terrible. We have a waiting list of over 150 people, half of whom are terminally ill," she said.

"So it's really critical we get to them as fast as we possibly can to make sure they get the financial support and benefits they're entitled to to make sure their end of life care is the best it can be for them and their families.

"We do get some support from the Welsh government but the crisis is that we have more and more people and we need more staff and more help."

Image caption Lowri Griffiths said patients could be up to £650 a month worse off after diagnosis

Lowri Griffiths, of Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said its research suggested Welsh patients were up to £650 a month worse off after a cancer diagnosis.

"One of the biggest areas, if you're someone who's working, is loss of earnings. Other examples might be the cost of travel back and forth to treatment and increased cost of heating bills for patients ill at home," she said.

A commitment to routinely refer every cancer patient for financial advice is set out in the Welsh government's cancer delivery plan.

But the results of the most recent Welsh Cancer Patient Experience survey in 2013 suggested half of the 7,500 patients polled had not been told where to seek help.

Ahead of May's assembly elections, both charities have called on all parties to pledge that patients will be offered financial advice.

The Welsh government said health boards had been given guidance to help improve the number of people signposted to financial support.

A spokesman added Tenovus was given funding to deliver a benefits advice service and said patients were supported through free prescriptions and hospital parking.

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