What Is the Cost of Chemotherapy in the UK and How to Pay for It

| 7 min read Financial Assistance

Chemotherapy is a medical treatment that uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells and stop the disease from spreading. It can be given to cure, control or relieve the symptoms of cancer. Due to the NHS, there is no cost of chemotherapy in the UK unless one is having private treatment.

However, there are many costs involved with a cancer diagnosis such as travelling to treatment and taking time off work. Macmillan Cancer Support estimates four in five people living with cancer are £570 a month worse off, on average, because of their diagnosis.

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Getting chemo in the UK

Chemotherapy can damage healthy cells in the body as well as cancer cells, causing a range of nasty side effects. The NHS states that side effects may include, but are not limited to: fatigue; nausea and vomiting; hair loss; diarrhoea or constipation; skin complaints; memory and concentration problems; and an increased risk of picking up infections. Many chemo side effects can now be prevented or treated with the help of your doctor. Hair loss is nearly always temporary.

How many people have chemotherapy every year?

Cancer Research’s latest cancer statistics estimate that more than 363,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK. The charity estimates that 28% of cancer patients have chemotherapy as part of their primary cancer treatment, meaning roughly 100,000 people are getting chemo every year.

How much does chemotherapy cost in the UK

The cost of chemotherapy in the UK is expensive if one chooses to go privately. The cost varies hugely with individual medical needs but a single round of chemotherapy can cost up to £30,000. Indeed, chemotherapy costs the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion a year.

With the NHS, many would think this means chemotherapy is free in the uk. Although cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, is free on the NHS for anybody living legally in the UK on a settled basis people can incur costs while undergoing treatment.

For those trying to answer the question ‘is chemo free in the uk’, it may involve the following self-funded costs:

Travel to specialist hospitals

The costs of travelling for chemotherapy can increase the cost of chemotherapy quickly, especially if you are referred to a specialist hospital that is far from where you live and are undergoing daily treatment. Paying for travel to and from hospital appointments costs cancer patients £170 a month on average, not including car parking charges, according to Macmillan.

The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme offers help with travel costs for patients and carers who qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme. It’s also worth searching online for a local voluntary group that may offer hospital pick-up and drop-off services.

Hospital car parking

Macmillan states that the average daily maximum cost of hospital car parking in the UK is £7.66. However, charges vary wildly and can reach more than three times this amount in London and the south-east. Data published by NHS Digital last October revealed that NHS trusts had raked in over £226m from car parking costs in the preceding financial year. Furthermore, four in ten NHS hospitals increased parking fees last year, some by 100 per cent, according to a freedom of information request.

Hospital parking is free for everybody in Wales, free for everybody at all hospitals bar three in Scotland and free for chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients in Northern Ireland.

Following government guidance, many hospitals in England now offer free or discounted car parking to people with cancer. However, this is rarely clearly advertised and 10 per cent of hospitals are still charging cancer patients the full cost.


Losing your hair to chemotherapy can be traumatic, which is why some cancer patients choose to wear a wig. Synthetic wigs cost from £50 to £200 and last for six to nine months. Wigs made from real hair cost from £200 to £2,000 but last for three to four years.

Synthetic wigs are only available for free on the NHS for children and students aged 19 or under, hospital inpatients and people who are eligible for the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Clothing costs

Chemotherapy can cause substantial weight loss or gain, leaving an estimated 40 per cent of cancer patients in need of new clothes.


People attending hospital for chemotherapy may need to employ childcare. The average cost of hiring a registered childminder for a child under two is £113 per week in the UK and £159 per week in London. On average, part-time nannies cost from £250 to £400 per week for 25 hours. Help towards childcare costs is available from the government, but the amount on offer depends on how much the claimant earns and the maximum contribution is £122.50 per week for one child or £210 a week for two or more.

Overnight accommodation for family members

Family members who don’t live near the hospital may need to organise overnight accommodation, especially if their child is undergoing chemotherapy. Figures from Statista show that the average London hotel rate is forecast to hit £153 a night by 2020. Outside London, people can expect to pay £72 a night on average.

Reduced income

Nearly one in three people living with cancer experience a loss of income, according to Macmillan, with a further third stopping work either permanently or temporarily. Those affected lose £860 a month on average. This loss of income, on top of additional costs, can be crippling, especially for self-employed people without the safety net of statutory sick pay.

Higher day-to-day living costs

More than half of cancer patients see their everyday living costs rise post-diagnosis, be it higher energy bills from spending more time at home and feeling the cold more, increased phone and internet bills to combat loneliness, or the need to pay for help with household chores. For those wondering how much does chemotherapy cost, on average, Macmillan found that these costs add up to an extra £63 a month.

Getting help paying for chemo

There are government schemes in place to help cancer patients who are struggling financially, some of which are mentioned above. However, these rarely cover the full costs of cancer.

Friends and family often want to help in any way they can, which is why many families tackling cancer turn to crowdfunding to lessen the burden.

Sam Morgan recently set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of her friend Delphine Runacres, whose 10-year-old son Jack is undergoing intense chemotherapy for bone cancer. Jack’s parents have been suffering financially with “lots of hospital visits and travelling costs”, on top of being unable to work while caring for him. So far, they have raised £1,655.

Friends of Mark Newcombe have raised over £6,300 on GoFundMe to help him support his young family after cancer left him unable to work. Mark recently had to travel up to Glasgow, away from home, for chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Recovery from this treatment is estimated to take up to nine months, but Mark’s financial stress has been lessened thanks to the GoFundMe community.

Start getting help today

With a GoFundMe, you can get immediate help to pay for your chemotherapy costs today. GoFundMe differs from many other fundraising platforms in that there are no hidden fees.

GoFundMe’s experts are on hand to offer advice around the clock and you can use our mobile app to check in on your fundraising progress while on the move.

Setting up your page could not be easier but there’s a treasure trove of expert fundraising tips on our blog.

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Written by dina