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County cancer patients struggle to pay heating bills

By citizennick  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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CANCER patients in Gloucestershire are being forced to rely on handouts to cover the cost of soaring fuel bills, according to a leading charity.

Macmillan Cancer Support paid out £54,216 to 189 people in the county, with 45 per cent of those needing help with fuel bills.

The news comes just weeks after all major energy suppliers hiked up fuel costs by just over 8 per cent on average.

William Cooper, 68, who is a recovering prostate cancer patient says finance is the last thing on a patients mind.

"When life does take a sudden turn for the worse with cancer, finance can be the last thing you want to worry about," he said.

"Normal life can come to a halt very quickly, but people still need to pay the bills so it can be a worrying time for families."

Of the big five energy companies, nPower customers have seen a 9 per cent rise in bills, with British Gas hiking up prices by 6 per cent.

Scottish Power raised prices by 7 per cent last month with EDF raising its average tarif by 11 per cent, SSE have brought in  a 9 per cent rise in October.

According to research by Macmillan, around 27,000 cancer patients in the UK could be behind with paying their fuel bills.

Delaying payments have left cancer patients more than £2.8 million in the red, as many bills are left unpaid.

The situation is made worse by one of the symptoms of the disease, as many patients often feel cold so turn the heating up.

David Crosby of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "These figures and our recent research show just how much of a problem keeping up with fuel bills is for cancer patients – especially as the weather gets colder.

"Cancer patients need to put their energy into getting better.

"Instead, many are living in cold homes anxious about how they're going to cope with rocketing fuel bills."

The second highest request for grants during this period was for clothing.

Macmillan's previous research showed one in three cancer patients have to put on outdoor clothes indoors to try to keep warm. 

The charity backed a YouGov online survey into 2,142 UK adults living with cancer to assess their heating needs.

Of five per cent of respondents who said they are currently in debt to their heating provider, almost a quarter said they owed £200 or more.

A further 15 per cent said they owed between £101-£200 and 38 per cent owed between £50-£100.

If you're worried about paying your fuel bills or need other financial help call 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/heating.

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