One in ten cancer sufferers are left housebound while others lack help washing and dressing because of a lack of help from social services, a leading charity has said.
Macmillan Cancer Support says at least 160,000 patients are constantly or often left stuck in their homes, while 100,000 are regularly unable to wash themselves, dress or go to the toilet because of a lack of care workers.
The findings, based on a survey of more than 1,000 cancer sufferers, suggest 11 per cent are often left housebound, while 7 per cent lack help with their basic needs.
“People at all stages of the disease are lacking the care and support they desperately need, with devastating consequences for their health and dignity,” the report warns.
“This lack of dignity is contributing to the huge emotional toll that cancer can inflict. People are living with constant feelings of fear, anger and isolation, not to mention depression and anxiety.”
The survey found that around two thirds of those with cancer needed help with some practical or personal care needs as they recovered.
These can include being completely unable to get in and out of bed, move around, cook food as well as being unable to wash, get dressed or go to the toilet independently, or needing a lot of help to do so.
The report says lack of social services support is also putting people’s health at risk.
One in seven people with cancer have had to go to hospital for an unplanned or emergency visit because of a lack of support for their practical or personal needs, the poll found.
The charity wants the NHS, local councils and charities to work together to ensure those with cancer receive the help they need.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said: “There is a growing recognition that social care is often vital for people living with long-term conditions. But unfortunately people with cancer have been highlighted as a group that already have all of their needs met by the NHS, because they are thought to be purely medical in nature.
“Today’s findings debunk this unfair myth. They show that people with cancer have needs which are far more widespread than we had even realised and that sadly the health and social care systems are too often failing to provide people with basic support.
“Macmillan is urgently calling on the NHS and local authorities to recognise that people with cancer do have social care needs and they desperately need more support. Macmillan is keen to work with these organisations to help people reclaim their lives – and dignity – from cancer.”
Lisa Grice, 55, who was diagnosed with womb cancer in 2012, said she received no support after being discharged from hospital confined to a wheelchair following a hysterectomy.
She said: “I was depressed and felt very alone, unable to wash myself or use the loo properly. I felt so hopeless that I didn’t want to go for radiotherapy.
“My husband couldn’t cope as he had his own physical issues. A discussion before leaving hospital about my support needs could have avoided this awful and debilitating situation.”
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