A cancer charity has reported a surge in patients seeking financial help to cope with soaring heating bills.
Macmillan Cancer Support said it paid a total of £216,453 in grants to help cancer patients meet essential financial expenses in the final week of December, marking an increase of around a third on the weekly average for 2012.
More than a third (36%) of this total for the last week of December was to help people pay their heating bills, showing an uplift on the average of 27% across 2012, Macmillan said.
Last week, E.ON was the last of the big six energy providers in a round of winter hikes to put price increases in place, as temperatures remained at sub-zero across much of the country.
The charity recently carried out research which suggested that around 27,000 cancer patients in the UK could be behind with their fuel bills and owe providers as much as £2.8 million in overdue payments.
Maureen Rutter, director of direct services of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "These figures and our recent research show just how much of a problem keeping up with fuel bills is for cancer patients - especially as we face freezing conditions over the next few days and months of winter still ahead.
"Cancer patients need to put their energy into getting better. Instead many are living in cold homes anxious about how they're going to cope with rocketing fuel bills."
The charity's grants are one-off payments for adults or children with cancer, which cover a range of needs such as help with a broken washing machine or a much-needed holiday.
Nearly 800 people received grants in the final week of 2012 and the second biggest request during this period was for clothing as people tried to keep warm, Macmillan said.
A survey from Which? published this week found that some of the UK's biggest energy companies are among the worst for customer satisfaction. Smaller firms were placed at the top of the consumer group's table for value for money and customer service.