The Autumn Statement fails to adequately address the financial strain faced by people at the end of their life
Today, Wednesday 22 November, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivered his Autumn Statement, setting out the Government’s plans for the economy.
We welcome the Chancellor's commitment to increase benefits for people of working age by 6.7%, as well as the increase to the state pension of 8.5%. This will provide much needed financial support for some of the most vulnerable in society.
However, this does not go far enough to help improve financial support for people at the end of life.
Emma Vasey, Sue Ryder's Head of Influencing and Engagement, said:
“Today’s Autumn Statement has failed to outline adequate financial support for people at the end of their life.
“When someone is living with a terminal illness their household income is often reduced as they may be too unwell to work. They may also have to keep the home warmer than usual and run expensive medical equipment, pushing up the price of their energy bills and compounding their financial strain.
“We found that found 81% of people receiving end-of-life care have been unable to run essential medical equipment due to high energy costs. This is simply unacceptable.
“We have called on the government to change this. We need to see a guarantee that all people living with a terminal illness are automatically eligible for the Warm Home Discount, as well as the introduction of a social tariff which offers discounted energy rates for people with a terminal illness.
“The government must introduce these measures to better financially support those at the end of life at the soonest possible opportunity.”
We found that a shocking 81% of people receiving end-of-life care have been unable to run essential medical equipment due to high energy costs. The impact of this has been a need for emergency healthcare assistance (44%), poor pain and symptom management (36%) and a negative impact on wellbeing (32%).
We also heard that 91% of people at the end of life have been unable to attend medical or day centre appointments due to financial concerns, including:
- concerns about the cost of any prescriptions that may result from their visit (40%),
- friends and family being unable to take them as they need to work (36%),
- not being able to take the time off work themselves (31%), and
- being unable to afford the travel costs (23%).
Again, the impact of patients not being able to attend essential medical appointments means increased visits from healthcare professionals (39%), poor pain and symptom management (34%) and needing emergency healthcare assistance (32%).
People nearing the end of life shouldn’t have to make difficult choices about whether to keep warm, turning their oxygen machine on, and whether they can afford to go to the doctor or get their medication.
What we’ve found shows that a lack of adequate financial support is not only having a negative impact on patients and their families, but it’s also placing further strain on the NHS. People are having to access additional emergency care that could be avoided if they could run their equipment and attend their day appointments.
Today’s announcement was a missed opportunity to reduce the financial burden faced by people at the end of life. Further support should be introduced urgently so that people at the end of life do not face the difficult choices we’ve outlined and to help to reduce pressure on NHS services.
We will continue to work with others to raise these issues in Parliament.