Council leader and MP oppose plan to reduce provision in the hospital
Rosena Allin-Khan on a recent visit to St. George's Hospital
May 23, 2023
Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan and Wandsworth Council leader Simon Hogg have written a letter to the Health Minister urging him to guarantee the future of the childrenâ€™s cancer care centre at St. Georgeâ€™s Hospital.
NHS England about to start a consultation on plans for a new Childrenâ€™s Cancer Principal Treatment Centre (PTC). St. Georgeâ€™s has submitted a bid to host the PTC but a rival proposal from the Evelina Centre is also being considered.
PTCs provide diagnosis, treatments, and coordination of highly specialised care for children aged 15 and under with cancer.â€¯â€¯There are 13 of them in England and the proposed centre would cater to south London as well as Kent, most of Surrey, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.
The specification for PTCs requires them to be on the same site as a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and other specialised childrenâ€™s services such as paediatric surgery relevant to childrenâ€™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 Georgeâ€™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 safely transferred between the site and St Georgeâ€™s Hospital every year.
Evelina London Childrenâ€™s Hospital, which is part of Guyâ€™s and St Thomasâ€™ NHS Foundation Trust, and St Georgeâ€™s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have both submitted proposals to become the PTC in future, providing all the required services on one site.
The NHS says that both proposals scored highly and are being taken forward for a public consultation which will be a final decision on the location of the new PTC.
St Georgeâ€™s believes that closing its regional childrenâ€™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 potential closure has been condemned by Wandsworth Council Leader Simon Hogg and local MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan.
In a letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, they say that the plans would badly affect families, lead to cuts in clinical services locally and dilute cancer treatment expertise.
Councillor Hogg and Dr Allin-Khan were on site at St Georgeâ€™s this week, visiting the childrenâ€™s ward as well as meeting with senior hospital staff. The MP has launched a petition to save provision at the hospital in her constituency.
The letter warns that â€œthe wealth of experience delivering this care cannot easily be replicated at an alternative site overnight.
â€œAdditionally, Evelina does not provide neurosurgery or oncology services and would rely on surgeons from St Georgeâ€™s travelling to the hospital to conduct these services. This is an impractical solution to a key issue, with one in four children with cancer having a neuro-oncological condition.â€
Another key concern expressed around the proposals is transport. Families of children with cancer often prefer to travel to hospital by car rather than public transport, especially if the children are on immunosuppressants. Driving and parking to the Evelina in central London is likely to create difficulty for families, whereas St Georgeâ€™s can ensure dedicated parking spaces for child cancer patients.
They also raise the issue of the financial implications of the proposed transfer. It is understood that the cost of transferring services to the Evelina would be around Â£90 million, three times more expensive than the estimated cost of redeveloping facilities at St Georgeâ€™s.
Councillor Hogg said, â€œThese are deeply concerning proposals which could have profound implications for Wandsworth families dealing with cancer. The Council will passionately oppose this and fight to save childrenâ€™s cancer services in our local area.
â€œI urge residents who are concerned about the proposals to respond to the NHS public consultation later in the year. If you are a Wandsworth family who will be directly affected by the proposals, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
â€œTogether we can win the fight to save childrenâ€™s cancer care at St Georgeâ€™s.â€
A spokesperson at St Georgeâ€™s Hospital said, â€œSt Georgeâ€™s is the only childrenâ€™s hospital in the region with 25 yearsâ€™ experience of delivering specialist cancer care, surgery and intensive care for children. Uniquely, our proposal is the only option where young people with brain cancer will get all their treatment, including surgery, at one hospital.
â€œWe have worked closely with NHS England to ensure that the strengths of the St Georgeâ€™s bid are clear and we are grateful for the support our proposal has received from patients, families and all our communities.â€
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