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Millions set to be living with a major illness in future – here’s how to protect yourself

Millions set to be living with a major illness in future – here’s how to protect yourself

Aug 30, 2023

Facing a serious illness is likely to be one of the most stressful and worrying times of your life.

Sadly, it is something that millions of Brits will go through. Cancer Research UK say that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer at some time in their life, while the British Heart Foundation says that there are 7.6 million people in the UK living with heart or circulatory disorders.

Moreover, new research suggests that more and more people will end up living with major illnesses in the future.

A recent report from The Health Foundation revealed that 9.1 million people in England are projected to be living with a major illness by 2040. That is equivalent to 2.5 million more than in 2019. 

The analysis found that 19 of the 20 health conditions studied are projected to increase in prevalence over the next two decades, including a rise of more than 30% in the number of people living with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Overall, the number of people living with major diseases is set to increase from almost 1 in 6 of the adult population in 2019, to nearly 1 in 5 by 2040, with significant implications for the NHS, other public services, and the public finances.

Being diagnosed with a serious illness can have a serious impact on your ability to work, and your household finances. So, read on to discover:

  • Why it’s important to protect yourself
  • Why sick pay may not be sufficient for you to maintain your lifestyle
  • How living with a serious illness could leave you struggling financially
  • Steps you can take to ensure you receive financial support if you’re seriously ill.

83% of workers say they would have to work through illness

If you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, one of your immediate concerns might be whether you can continue to pay your bills if you have to take time off work.

You recently read about TV presenter, Jonnie Irwin, who has revealed he had to continue to work after his cancer diagnosis in order to generate an income to support his family.

A study reported by HR News shows that the vast majority (83%) of frontline workers fear they would need to work through illness because the current legislation means they can’t afford to take sick leave. 

For more than 9 in 10 respondents, being signed off for just two weeks would put them under financial pressure. A quarter (28%) of frontline workers said they would be forced to go without heating or eating if signed off for work for two weeks or more.

The research also highlights the mental health impact of this so-called “sick pay crisis”. 

Being off work for two weeks or more would lead to feelings of anxiety and/or depression for 86% of the UK’s essential workers, and 92% of them say they are worried about burning out if they have to work through illness. 

Statutory Sick Pay is just £109.40 a week

If you were off work for an extended period due to ill health, could you afford to maintain your mortgage or rent payments, and your other essential outgoings?

A recent survey by credit management company Lowell, reported by The Canary, questioned people who were either chronically ill or off work injured in May 2023. 

They found that in terms of finances, more than one-third (36%) say the cost of medical bills have made their finances worse. Additionally, in terms of family finances:

  • 45% had to claim benefits
  • 34% struggled to pay bills, including mortgages
  • 21% said their family had built up debt to support them
  • 21% said a family member/members have had to cut down hours or stop working to care for them
  • 20% said someone in the family had taken on a second job.

Overall, 30% of respondents said they were now in £1,500 or more worth of debt due to their health. 

Part of the reason for this could be that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – the amount of sick pay your employer is legally obliged to pay – is just £109.40 a week in the 2023/24 tax year. Additionally, it is only paid for a maximum of 28 weeks.

Of course, your employer might have a more generous policy than this.

However, as this data shows, many millions of people struggle to meet their regular commitments if off work with a health issue. And, if it’s a serious diagnosis – for example, cancer, a heart problem, or a stroke – you could have to take weeks or even months off work to undergo specialist treatment and recuperate.

It could mean you’d have to live on around £450 a month while you’re off work – unlikely to be enough to pay your bills. And, after 28 weeks, you may receive no support at all.

As you read earlier, with 1 in 5 people Brits set to be living with a major illness by 2040, these issues will affect more and more people in the future. So, if you want the peace of mind that you won’t experience financial worries if you are diagnosed with a serious condition, it’s time to put the right protection in place now.

Benefit from the peace of mind that you’ll receive financial help if you’re seriously ill

Ill health is something none of us want to think about. However, the statistics show that many of us will be affected by a diagnosis at some time in our lives – whether that’s us or loved ones.

If you would find it difficult to maintain your regular commitments if you had to take an extended period off work, there is valuable protection that can help you.

Critical Illness cover will provide financial support when you’re diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Common conditions covered under this protection include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack and other serious vascular conditions
  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Loss of eyesight or a limb
  • Parkinson’s disease.

When you receive a diagnosis, your insurer will assess your claim to make sure it meets their threshold for a payout. For example, some more minor types of cancer won’t normally be covered, and other conditions such as Covid-19 are unlikely to be covered also.

When your insurer approves your claim, they will normally pay your benefit in the form of a tax-free lump sum. The Association of British Insurers reports that, in 2022, the average Critical Illness cover claimant received almost £68,000.

Once you receive your payout, you can decide how best to use this lump sum. You may want to:

  • Pay for modifications or adaptations to your home
  • Pay off debts
  • Use the money to replace your income, and maintain your regular commitments
  • Pay for specialist care or treatment.

Read: 5 practical ways to use your Critical Illness payout

When you arrange your Critical Illness cover, you choose a lump sum that meets your needs, and how long you want your cover to run for. For example, you may decide to take out £50,000 worth of cover over 25 years.

When you take out your policy, you may also be able to link your cover amount to inflation. This ensures that your payout will retain its spending power even if the cost of living has risen.

Read: With inflation so high, is your life insurance and protection still enough?

As Critical Illness experts, we can help you to find the right policy for you. We work with dozens of the UK’s leading insurers and will search the market for you to find the most appropriate policy at the best possible price.

Compare Critical Illness cover online now or get in touch with one of our experts if you’d like to find out more about how Critical Illness cover could help you cope if you were diagnosed with a serious illness.

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