During and after a diagnosis of cancer, many questions come to mind. Will I be okay? What do I need to do now? How will I get through this? What support is available for me? One practical issue that often causes anxiety and difficulty is the arrangement of cancer care. There are financial implications to consider – and a desire to access the best cancer care possible.
At UK Care Guide we specialise in supporting and guiding individuals facing a need for care provision with our extensive library of free resources and articles. In this piece we explain the different types of cancer care available, and provide information and advice to help you to make a decision confidently with complete peace of mind.
The first place you will come into contact with cancer care will usually be the NHS. The NHS provides different types of cancer care, known as ‘pathways’. These vary in nature depending on the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, and your prognosis and treatment plan.
Normally cancer care on the NHS is provided at a hospital or specialist centre, with some visits carried out at home where necessary. It is provided in conjunction with treatment, and will be continually assessed to ensure that it is meeting your needs. NHS cancer care doesn’t necessarily cover additional needs however, and isn’t always available at a time and place that suits you.
Some also find that when NHS cancer care stops they still feel they need support, especially at home. Others live with cancer for a number of years – and in these cases long-term cancer care is required, but not always provided, by the NHS. Additional related or unrelated health needs can also make extra care necessary.
You should be assigned a specialist and a nurse – and can also request to see a hospital social worker. These people are responsible for your care, and should talk you through any options available. You can then explore a range of appropriate cancer care plans both within the NHS and independently.
Any cancer care that falls outside the care the NHS is prepared to provide will need to be paid for privately. Naturally some facing cancer choose to access treatment at home or in a private facility, where they feel more comfortable. Many residential homes now offer specialist cancer care – but they tend to be more appropriate for the elderly, and therefore aren’t always suitable for younger patients. Private companies provide care at home in varying capacities – from a personal assistant who helps with chores and errands to a fully qualified healthcare professional who administers medication and aids with personal care tasks.
Cancer care at home is understandably an attractive option, as it enables individuals to remain at home in familiar and comfortable surroundings. It also reduces the number visits to treatment centres and clinics, which can involve relying on a relative or friend for lifts. Thankfully due to the advancements in medical technology and the evolution of cancer care services, it’s now possible for many living with cancer to access support in their own home. Palliative care can also be administered at home.
The NHS does provide cancer care at home – but eligibility and availability will differ depending on your individual situation and local authority. District nurses administer cancer care at home on behalf of your GP or specialist, providing basic nursing care including changing dressings, administering medicine and personal care such as bathing and toileting. There is no cost for cancer care delivered by district nurses.
Some prefer to access private cancer care from a specialist home care company. Naturally there are fees attached to this – you can find further details on cancer care obtained privately here. Charities such as Macmillan and Marie Curie specialise in providing both cancer care at home and palliative care.
It’s very important that you choose a cancer care provider that has specific experience in the type of cancer you have. Make sure that you discuss your care requirement with your doctor, nurse, specialist or social worker, to see what their opinion is on the level of care you need and how it should be administered. If you are looking for palliative care, there may be options available to you that aren’t specific to cancer.
There are benefits and grants available from the government for those requiring cancer care, and for relatives who administer it. There are many different individual types of benefits – including Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. You may be eligible for just one, or a combination of these.
However as is the case with many welfare payments and benefits available to those in need, it’s not always simple to know what funding you are entitled to, or how to apply for it. There are several points of contact you can go to first if you feel you need financial support with cancer care – whether you have cancer yourself, or are caring for a loved one.
Firstly ask the healthcare professionals in charge of your care – or a hospital or community social worker, if you have one assigned to you. Cancer support groups and the Citizens Advice Bureau are also handy points of contact. They may also help you to fill out the forms if you are having any difficulty. Alternatively you can head directly to your local JobCentre Plus (who deal with benefits and welfare payments on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions), or call them to discuss your situation and ask what you may be entitled to.
If you require further information on cancer care or advice on accessing support and financial help, feel free to browse the dedicated cancer care pages here on the UK Care Guide website. You can also find helpful resources and details of support groups in your area via Cancer Research UK.