Making money one less worry for cancer patients

When people are diagnosed with cancer the first thing they tend to think about is their own health, mortality and how difficult it will be telling family and friends. The last thing most people think about is talking to their insurance company or bank manager about their diagnosis.

In its report “No Small Change”, Macmillan Cancer Support urges people affected by cancer, as well as the banking and insurance industries, to understand that money and cancer go hand in hand – and the need for support with money issues can be just as vital to a patient’s well-being as the right chemotherapy.

Banks are in a unique position to help their customers cope with the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis. However, the experiences of people with cancer vary greatly depending on their banking provider. Despite some excellent examples of good practice across the industry, the available support is not always embedded or consistent.

To challenge this, there are simple steps our banks can take. Firstly, banks should ensure that all frontline staff are confident in identifying and helping customers with cancer.

Staff should be confident in having sensitive conversations with customers with cancer and equipped with the skills and knowledge to refer those customers to more specialised support. This is crucial in ensuring people with cancer are treated with empathy, but also that they get access to the available support quickly and efficiently.

When people with cancer are referred on by front-line staff, banks should have the right specialised support in place. This support will often come in the form of specialist vulnerable customer teams and these teams must have the right level of training, resource and authority to properly identify and respond to customers’ needs.

Crucially, banks also need to ensure that their policies and products are developed using accurate, up-to-date information on the financial needs of people with cancer. The reality of what it means to live with cancer is changing – someone diagnosed with cancer is likely to have varying financial needs at diagnosis, treatment and beyond. It is imperative that the products on offer from banks, as well as their policies and procedures, accurately reflect these needs.

Individual banks, such as Lloyds Banking Group, are working alongside us to further enhance the service they offer to people with cancer. Another excellent example of this is Nationwide Building Society’s Specialist Support Service. Developed in partnership with Macmillan and piloted in late 2015, the service demonstrates one way in which banks can practically apply the guiding principles of how to support cancer patients.

Macmillan believes the insurance industry should also consider what more it can do to make sure people who are living with and beyond cancer are able to access key insurance products and have a positive experience of the industry.

While we acknowledge there are some providers working to improve the service they offer people affected by cancer – including reducing delays in paying critical illness claims – this isn’t consistent across the sector and more needs to be done.

Whatever stage someone is at in their cancer journey, they should be able to access products that are appropriate to their circumstances and at a fair price that accurately reflects the risk that is being covered. 

Macmillan is currently undertaking research into the extent of the issues outlined above, their root causes and the barriers which insurers face in dealing with them. In the meantime, we believe the insurance industry should consider how it can use the most up-to-date information about cancer to ensure current pricing systems accurately reflect the level of risk posed by people who are living with and beyond cancer.

Together, we can make money one less worry for cancer patients.

By Andrew Montgomery, Macmillan’s Benefits Advice Project Manager