Dismay at Children's Cancer Care Decision

Highly rated services at St. George's Hospital to be closed

Wandsworth Council Leader Simon Hogg on a fact finding mission to St George's
Wandsworth Council Leader Simon Hogg on a fact finding mission to St George's

March 15, 2024

There has been cross party condemnation of a decision by the NHS to remove children’s cancer services from St. George’s Hospital in Tooting.

The announcement this Thursday (14 March) came after a consultation in which a choice was being made between St. George’s and Evelina Hospital in central London. St George’s currently supports child patients from across south west London, Surrey, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Kent and Medway. St George’s believes that closing its regional children’s cancer service will have a knock-on effect of other services and would have a huge impact on patients, parents, and families. The service is a world leader in paediatric cancer research and rated outstanding by the CQC.

The council leaders from all the main parties, including Wandsworth’s Simon Hogg, have jointly written to the Health Secretary urging her to reverse the decision. They describe the decision as short-sighted, saying goes against parents’ wishes and risks the loss of clinical expertise built up over 25 years at St George’s. They also have serious concerns about potential travel difficulties for child cancer patients and their families due to the Evelina’s location in central London.

The NHS is planning to build a new Children’s Cancer Principal Treatment Centre (PTC) which St. George’s was hoping to host.

PTCs provide diagnosis, treatments, and coordination of highly specialised care for children aged 15 and under with cancer. The specification for PTCs requires them to be on the same site as a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and other specialised children’s services such as paediatric surgery relevant to children’s cancer care.

For the last 25 years, the PTC covering this area was jointly provided by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The Royal Marsden does not have a paediatric intensive care unit on-site, which means that some children are currently transferred between the site and St George’s Hospital every year.

Wandsworth Council Leader Simon Hogg, who has led Wandsworth’s campaign to save children’s cancer care at St George’s, said: “This is a hugely disappointing decision, and shows that little attention has been paid to the families of children with cancer, who have overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to these proposals.

“St George’s has been offering high-quality cancer care to children for the past 25 years. The removal of services risks losing that clinical expertise and could have a serious knock-on effect on other specialist treatments the hospital provides.

“Our fight to keep children’s cancer care at St George’s does not end here. We will do everything in our power to make sure the NHS and government re-consider this decision and do what is best for families.”

The NHS says that Evelina London’s is a specialist children’s hospital treating 120,000 patients a year and offering a wide range of services and support for hospitals across its catchment area to look after poorly young patients. It adds that a strong performance in research was another factor which resulted in it being chosen to host the Children’s Cancer Centre.
NHS England, London Medical Director Dr Chris Streather said, “I would like to thank everyone who took part in our public consultation, and for the valuable feedback we received.

“This is a positive step forward for children’s cancer care – at the new location, children who need intensive care will be able to get it on site and the future centre will stand ready to give cutting-edge treatments that require intensive care on site, like other major centres worldwide.

“Service reconfiguration is rarely easy, but the decision taken today will ensure that children with cancer in south London and much of the south east will continue to receive the best possible care now and into the future.”

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