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Charities demand new laws to protect cancer carers

Leading charities have called on the Government to draft new laws that would entitle those looking after a relative or friend with cancer to specialist support, reports The Telegraph.

The chief executives of 13 leading cancer charities have written an open letter, published in The Telegraph, asking that Britain's one million informal carers be given legal rights to specialist help as part of an amendment to the Government's new Care Bill.

The charities, including major names such as Cancer Research UK and Macmillan, believe that without proper support those caring for a loved one or friend with cancer could simply 'buckle under the pressure'.

At present it is thought that there are around one million 'informal' carers looking after a family member or friend with cancer in the UK.

Estimates suggest that this vast network of informal carers offer on average 50-hours a week in unpaid care, ranging from giving medicines to providing domestic help with cooking, cleaning and shopping.

There are a range of services available to informal carers, including counselling and training to help them deal with the realities of caring for someone with cancer, as well as respite care, allowing them to hand over care to a professional to allow them to take a much-needed break.

Many informal carers do not utilize the services available because they don't know they exist, and often because they don't see what they are doing as providing 'care'.

Under the proposed amendment to the Care Bill, the NHS would be placed under a legal obligation to identify carers when offering treatment to cancer patients, and to then ensure that those carers are directed to their local service providers who can assess them for their support needs.

CiarĂ¡n Devane is the chief executive of Macmillan.

"If this does not happen, they will buckle under the strain of caring which may affect the well-being of patients, put a burden on services and be costly to the NHS in the long-term," he said.