Macmillan Cancer Support said that the shielding programme, whereby people classed as extremely vulnerable to the risks of coronavirus have been asked to take extra measures to protect themselves, has been a “vital lifeline”.
However as the programme is “paused” from 1 August in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and 16 August in Wales, many people will be forced to return to work.
Meanwhile, those without jobs also face losing support from the national shielding service which provided free food parcels, medicine deliveries and care throughout lockdown.
A survey conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support found that many cancer patients were fearful of returning to the work place, with 42 per cent saying they believe it is currently unsafe for them to work outside of their home.
One in three (36 per cent) people with cancer in work also said that Covid-19 had affected their finances, with some saying they have been left struggling to pay their bills.
Following the findings, Macmillan Cancer Support has called on the government to extend the furlough scheme to help people classed as clinically vulnerable and is also calling for greater clarity on workplace protections for people with cancer who are returning to work.
The organisation is also asking employers to play their part by ensuring they make provisions for vulnerable staff and said there could be devastating consequences if people with cancer are forced to return to workplaces before it is safe.
The poll of 2,000 British adults with a previous cancer diagnosis found that six per cent had already been asked to leave the safety of their homes and go back to their workplace.
In addition, four per cent of cancer patients in the UK said that they had struggled to pay for basic essentials or bills, such as food or energy, during the coronavirus crisis – when extrapolated, this means 110,000 people with cancer have struggled this way, the charity said.
From 1 August, people who are shielding will be able to return to work if they cannot work at home. For anyone concerned about returning to work, we recommend speaking to your employer to understand their specific policies around health & safety.https://t.co/F8RlQBtcnL pic.twitter.com/jaiMyytcxL— NHS HMR CCG (@NHSHMR)July 28, 2020
An estimated 60,000 people living with cancer (two per cent) have also been left with no income at all during the pandemic, it added.
“The measures put in place by governments during the coronavirus pandemic for those shielding has been a vital lifeline for many over the last four months,” said Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.
“It is critical that this safety net doesn’t just disappear. We need clarity around how people with cancer will be supported and kept safe as the world starts to return to normal.”
She continued: “Cancer must not become the ‘forgotten C’ in this pandemic. As the UK Government encourages people in England to return to work, stronger protections must be put in place for people who have been shielding or are clinically vulnerable.
“It is critical that we allow them to step back from the cliff edge of having to choose between protecting their health or staying in work and paying their bills.”
The findings come as the union Unite raised concerns over a number of issues as shielding workers return to their workplaces.
Issues could include mental health of employees and concerns about disciplinary procedures for those too worried to return to work.
The union said employers should have organised health assessments to protect vulnerable workers.
Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary at Unite, said: “The world of work has fundamentally changed since March and as we ease back into the workplace, we need to pay special attention to the concerns of those who have been shielding these last five months.
“There is an arbitrary ring to the 1 August date and we question whether ministers have thought through all the implications as thousands of shielding workers gingerly return to their place of employment.”
A government spokesperson said: “We understand how challenging this pandemic has been for those with cancer and we must do everything we can to support them.
“Employers must ensure the safety of those with such conditions when considering working arrangements, including whether work can be completed remotely.
“For those that cannot safely return to work, employers can continue to access the Job Retention Scheme and we have put an additional £8bn into the welfare system to provide emergency support.”