Claudine Brindle, 44, and her daughter Emma Conchar, 14, from Dumfries, are backing a campaign by charity CLIC Sargent, who say that on average, families of children and young people in Scotland with cancer face a round trip of 68 miles to get to hospital for treatment.
And that adds up to at least £180 a month in petrol costs.
Emma was 13 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October. Initially, doctors suggested it was because Emma was using her mobile phone too much, but after her glands became swollen and didn’t go down, she was sent for an ultrasound. Three days later, the family was told that they’d found a lump near her lymph nodes and they would need to be referred to a consultant in Glasgow, who did further tests and confirmed that Emma had cancer.
Claudine said: “I was still in disbelief; our world was turned upside down. We knew that it meant some big changes; that we’d have to be travelling up and down to Glasgow for Emma’s treatment.”
The youngster faced a six hour operation in Glasgow to have her thyroid and lymph nodes removed, and then had to stay in for four days to recover. The family was supported by the hospital to arrange accommodation in a local hotel for three nights so that they could be close-by, but they had to pay themselves for a fourth night when she needed an extra day to recover. Emma was then referred for radioactive iodine treatment in January 2018, staying two nights in a special isolation ward with lead lined rooms. And because the therapy can make patients radioactive for a few days after treatment, the family could not travel by train and had to go by car.
Claudine revealed that each trip to Glasgow cost them over £25 in petrol, or if travelling by train it could be upwards of £50 plus taxi fare to get to the hospital. She added: “We’re still going backwards and forwards because there’s different blood tests, injections and scans that have to be done. We’ve had about 12 trips altogether to Glasgow over the last year for appointments or admissions.”
Under the current NHS’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, just six per cent of families receive financial support with travel costs. Now CLIC Sargent is 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.
Charity CEO Kate Lee 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 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.”
To support the campaign, go to www.clicsargent.org.uk/ccam