No child or young person with cancer should be unable to access the treatment they need because of the cost of travelling to hospital. Through the healthcare travel costs scheme, which is part of the NHS low income scheme, parents in receipt of a qualifying benefit or on a low income can claim for the reimbursement of travel costs for their children’s treatment. To date, the scheme has helped some 337,000 people.
CLIC Sargent, the charity for children with cancer, has shown that families in my constituency with children with cancer can face a 54-mile round trip to get to their nearest treatment location, which can cost them up to £161.58 a month. Families are incurring thousands of pounds of debt paying for parking and driving their children to their cancer treatment. Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that only 6% of parents of children with cancer are reported as having received financial help from the NHS healthcare travel costs assistance scheme? Does he recognise that the scheme is not designed to meet the needs of children and young people who need highly specialised treatment—
Yes, we do recognise that there is a challenge there. I gave evidence to the all-party parliamentary group on children, teenagers and young adults with cancer, and I have a copy of the “Listen Up” report here. CLIC Sargent is part of the secretariat for that group. We are looking at this issue through the long-term plan, and I look forward to meeting my right hon. Friend along with CLIC Sargent in the next few weeks as planned.
Access to services is very important for those in the poorest areas of my constituency. Warrington Hospital has been losing services over time, but it has now sought to become a cancer hub for north Cheshire. Will the Minister ensure that, in the case of such applications, access to services for the poorest people is considered along with other factors?
Yes, we are interested in access to services for all people, wherever they are on the income scheme. The hon. Lady is right to raise that issue. We need to do better on cancer diagnosis, so I would be interested to hear more about the cancer hub that she mentions.