Children with cancer are travelling twice as far and spending twice as much on travel for treatment than adults research reveals

Young cancer patients are having to travel twice as far, and spend twice as much, on getting to and from hospital than adults with cancer, new research from CLIC Sargent has revealed today (1). 

Children with cancer are travelling twice as far and spending twice as much on travel for treatment than adults research reveals
  • Children and young people with cancer face journeys twice as long, costing twice as much as adults with the same disease to get to specialist treatment in the UK
  • Young cancer patients and families face average travel costs of £180 a month on their ‘cancer commute’ getting to hospital for life saving treatment which can last over three years. 
  • The average journey families face is a 60-mile trip to hospital and back – the longest distance travelled by families is over 800 miles
  • Treatment for childhood cancer can last anything from months to over three years, meaning families face making the journey countless times.

CLIC Sargent has today launched a petition urging the government to set up a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund for children and young people with cancer and their families in the UK, providing £5 million annually, to help cover the cost of travelling hundreds of miles to get to vital cancer treatment.

Cancer commute

On average, families of children and young people with cancer face a round trip of 60 miles to get to hospital for treatment (2), adding up to at least £180 a month in petrol costs (3), with some families having to pay out hundreds in taxi fares and tickets for public transport. Compared to adult cancer patients who travel and spend half of this amount.  

Due to the nature of childhood cancer, different cancer types require specialist treatment - which is only available at a small number of specialist treatment centres across the UK. That often means families have to travel around the UK to get to treatment – one family is currently travelling over 800 miles to get to the specialist treatment centre.

Cancer treatment for young people can take anything from months to over three years, consisting of hundreds of journeys back and forth to the hospital, whether that’s for chemotherapy, routine blood tests or their child falls suddenly ill in the middle of the night and needs urgent medical care. Under the current NHS’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, just 6% of families receive financial support with travel costs (4).  

Cancer costs

The cost of getting to hospital and back is just one of the added costs faced by families when a child is diagnosed with cancer. On average, a family of a child with cancer faces spending £600 a month extra (5), on top of every day expenses and bills, which is often money families struggle to find especially if parents have had to give up work or cut their hours to be with their child. 

Oliver's story

Nicky Brown’s son Oliver, 10, was diagnosed with blood cancer in August 2016. The family live in Plymouth but Oliver’s nearest specialist treatment centre is in Bristol – 120 miles away. Oliver was given the all clear in May 2017 but sadly relapsed earlier this year and is currently in hospital after having undergone a second stem-cell transplant. Nicky said:

The Brown Family

“On a good day the journey takes just over two hours each way, but with the holiday traffic over the summer it has sometimes taken as long as four hours each way. It costs us £80 for a return trip - something we do every weekend. That’s before you even consider wear and tear- we estimate with wear and tear it costs about £120 per journey."

“We have made that journey every week since May. That is £1280 this year alone, just on petrol. The first time Oliver was ill we were spending £40 a week every week for 5.5 months. That’s £880, so we have easily spent more than £2000 on travel. Spending that money is unavoidable - we know that Bristol Children’s Hospital is a Centre of Excellence so Oliver needs to be there because he is getting the best care for his condition."

“I’ve had to give up work, because it is the second time around for Oliver on treatment."

"We are very fortunate in that we didn’t have debts coming into this, but we also know that if this goes on a lot longer it will have significant consequences and we are going to end up in debt. Nobody asks for this to happen. Nobody wants to be in this situation. Not having any support with travel costs can really affect a family’s emotional wellbeing because it comes at a time when we are already anxious and worried, so it is just another thing to add to the pressure. It would make such a difference to people to not have to think about the cost of just getting to treatment.”

Not good enough

Kate Lee, CEO at CLIC Sargent, 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 NHS’ provision of universal healthcare is free at the point of need yet, in reality, families are footing the bill for it."

“On top of what can be years of treatment, countless back and forth to the hospital, there is the constant worry and need to have enough petrol in the tank and make sure the car is roadworthy so family know they can make it to hospital whenever they need to."

“We know that cancer costs and families are really struggling financially, leaving families counting pennies, relying on charity grants, borrowing money from family and friends, wiping out savings or facing being plunged into debt. This is not good enough and 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.”

Sign the Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund petition.

Spokespeople and case studies are available for interview. For more information, please contact Kat Evans on 020 8752 2902 or email For out of hours enquiries, call 0844 848 1189.  

(1) Research and data supported by a corporate partner
(2) CLIC Sargent ‘Are We There Yet?’ report, page 6
(3) CLIC Sargent ‘Are We There Yet?’ report, page 6
(4) CLIC Sargent ‘Are We There Yet?’ report, page 6
(5) CLIC Sargent’s Cancer Costs report

NHS’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme 

The NHS’s Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme is the current scheme providing financial assistance for travel to hospital. It is only available to families with a household income of just £16,000 or below or in receipt of income-related benefits.

About cancer in children and young people

Today, 11 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent

When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally.

Note to sub editors

Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.