Extra funds will help access to cancer treatment

The Southern Cancer Society is welcoming a win for patients after a boost to the health travel fund’s petrol and accommodation payments for the first time in 15 years.

This follows the government’s announcement yesterday of an $18 million funding increase to help those using the National Travel Assistance Scheme (NTA), which last had increases to mileage and accommodation rates in 2009.

Society chief executive Nicola Coom indicated the increase would allow it to continue providing free accommodation for families travelling to Dunedin or Christchurch.

The boost would allow more people with a cancer diagnosis to access treatment.

"For many, the financial burden of travelling to cancer treatment has been so high that they have had to choose between treatment or putting food on the table for their family."

It was a change the society had been advocating for, and she thanked those who had kept the issue in the public eye.

"We applaud the government for addressing this so early in their term.

‘‘We would like to thank the families who have shared their personal stories publicly as this can be difficult, but they can take heart in knowing it has contributed to this outcome."

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti called the change ‘‘long overdue" and said removing barriers to treatment was a ‘‘no-brainer".

He thanked the society for its advocacy.

Mileage rates would increase from 28 to 34c per kilometre, and accommodation rates would rise from $100 to $140 per night.

During a cost-of-living crisis it was important to support people in their time of need, Dr Reti said.