LV= paid record individual protection claims totalling nearly £118m during 2020.

Breaking the data down, LV= paid out over £28m in critical illness claims in 2020.

Life assurance claims totalled almost £72m and LV= paid nearly £14.6m in income protection.

LV= makes changes to flexible repayment terms on lifetime mortgages

Claims for personal sick pay protection, which is designed for self-employed and contract workers, totalled over £2.6m with payments made to 1,200 individuals.

It supported more than 9,000 claimants and their families, paying 95% of all individual protection claims including life, critical illness and income protection.

COVID-19 related claims last year accounted for £6.5m and consisted of 619 death and 255 income-related claims.

More than 10% of death claims in 2020 were for COVID-19.

As well as COVID-related claims, the pandemic has also led to a big rise in demand for daily benefits through LV= doctor services, which provides access to six expert medical services via app or phone.

In 2020 remote GP appointments rose 88%, remote psychological services were up 496%, and remote physiotherapy increased by 235%.

Debbie Kennedy, director of protection at LV=, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating.

“It is having a huge impact on people and we expect to see the effects on claims lasting for several years.

“Not only have people been affected directly by the virus, millions of people around the UK are struggling with mental health issues caused by isolation, coping with lockdown and financial worries.

“The impact on the NHS and delays to appointments, screenings and treatment mean that serious conditions such as cancer could be diagnosed later, when the illness becomes more advanced and difficult to treat.

“We are anticipating a rise in advanced stage cancer diagnoses and claims in 2021 and 2022 caused by a backlog of screenings and delays to early treatment and, as a consequence, we expect that there will be an increase in mental health and cancer-related claims over the next couple of years.

“Paying claims remains at the heart of what we do but I am a strong believer that protection insurance is not only about paying claims; it’s about supporting customers when they are at their most vulnerable and proving emotional and practical support when they need it.

“I am proud that LV= provides a range of services including Rehab Support Services, LV= Doctor Services which provides instant access to medical experts and the LV= Member Care Line gives access to qualified counsellors if members are experiencing emotional distress.”