We are part of a campaign to keep Paediatric Oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital so that vital research and trials can continue to benefit all children diagnosed with cancer.
CAMPAIGN OVERVIEW: #HearTheMarsdenKids
Sign the change.org petition here by clicking on the image below.
We are a group of united parents who are strongly opposing the NHS London decision to close The Royal Marsden Children’s Cancer hospital and we now need your support to ensure all of our voices are heard and that this poorly justified proposal can be reconsidered.
This decision has been based on the national service specification that states that all very specialist cancer treatment services for children must now be provided on the same site as a Level 3 children’s intensive care unit (PICU), meaning that all of The Royal Marsden’s services for children aged 15 and under would be moved to either St George’s Hospital in Tooting, or (NHS London’s preferred option), the Evelina Children’s Hospital in Lambeth.
For further information about this, please view the public consultation document drafted by NHS London here: https://www.transformationpartnersinhealthandcare.nhs.uk/…
Whilst we fully appreciate how deeply traumatic and concerning it is for children and their families to receive PICU transfers and treatments; the impact of the decision to close and move all of the world-leading services from The Royal Marsden to an alternative London-based hospital, would cause far more complications, inconsistencies in treatment and potentially hugely lengthy increases in travel times and logistics for families, at what is already a terrifying and incredibly stressful time for them. This needs to be reconsidered.
What is the impact of this proposed move?
- There is no guarantee that the new service would exceed, or indeed even meet, the current world-leading treatment programmes in place at The Royal Marsden, especially if housed at Evelina London which is not a cancer specialist hospital.
- We are being told that the closure is needed due to the predicted increased need for PICU for future children’s treatments – we have spoken to leading medical experts who dispute this as many future treatments in development will also minimise the need for PICU so the current figures are unlikely to change. From the data submitted only 7.7% of patients who were treated at The Royal Marsden from 2019/20 were transferred to St George’s for potential ICU care. Only 3.3% of all these patients actually required ICU. (Comparable data from 2023 shows that the most recent figures are even lower than 2019/20). This equates to 15 patients out of 456 who were treated at The Royal Marsden that year. Around 1,400 children, aged one to 15, are under the care of the Principal Treatment Centre for South London and much of South East England at any given time. More than 60% of the centre’s patients are from outside London. That equates to 840 patients, only around 5.7% would require the PICU service yet all would face the extended journey time and continued dual and multiple site locations for treatments. More than 1 in 10 patients have 20+ visits to hospital, with some reaching to over 50 visits per child per year.
- This does not solve the issue of single-site care. Patients who do not require PICU but do require radiotherapy, among other treatments currently available at The Royal Marsden, would also all be moved and have to travel elsewhere. If Evelina London won the bid, they would not be able to provide Neurosurgery, so patients would still have to travel to King’s or St George’s hospital.
- Travel times for the vast majority of patients and their families will be negatively impacted – around 63.6% of patients do not live in South East or South West London determining that for the majority of patients their journey times and travel logistics would be increased. This proposal favours the idea that patients would travel by public transport to reduce their journey time to hospital – parents of critically-ill children with weakened immune systems would simply not risk this. Both hospitals being proposed have limited parking available and Evelina London is also within the Congestion Charge zone. NHS London would only provide reimbursements for one member of the family to travel with their child, the other parent would be expected to pay all fees in full.
- The Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, is based on the same site as The Royal Marsden Hospitals in both Chelsea and Sutton. Its teams undertake laboratory-based research to develop new drugs. They work closely with The Royal Marsden, which is a leading centre for cancer research, and St George’s Hospital. This helps turn discoveries made by scientists into new treatments for patients. The co-location of the research labs and the children’s unit in Sutton enables children for whom there is no known cure to enter drug trials formulated for adults. Moving these children away from the specialists running these trials would render access to these trials very difficult if not impossible.
- This is estimated to cost around £40million at a time when the NHS is already underfunded, over-stretched and desperately in need of additional budgets and resources – how can this be justified?
- The Oak Children & Young People’s Drug Development Unit (OCYP-DDU) is the largest and most active drug development programme for children and young people in the UK. It is also one of the most active first-in-child clinical trial centres in Europe (where new treatments, drugs, therapy combinations or procedures are tested in children for the first time).
This proposal highlights the poor decision that NHS London are prioritising meeting standard National specifications over patient choice & specialist care, spending public money and future research developments.
What is the alternative?
There is a simple and effective solution that has previously been discounted without solid justification and we want to push for it to now be approved. We are in agreement with the suggestion of proposing a ‘risk-adapted’ model whereby any patients who, upon diagnosis, are deemed likely to require PICU services throughout the course of their treatment, would receive their specialist care at St George’s hospital to ensure minimal need for transfers.
For the remaining 93% of patients, they would continue to receive the world-leading specialist care of The Royal Marsden including both in and outpatient appointments, on-site access to research specialists and drug trials and radiotherapy treatment.
This would remove the huge transportation challenges, issues of potentially reduced expertise and cohesiveness of care, remove the huge financial burden on the NHS and maintain the quality of care we all believe is crucial to ensure the best outcomes for our children.
There is no other hospital like The Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital in this country – without this hospital and its staff’s expertise; the future of children’s cancer services for South London and most of the South of England are at huge risk of failing. We simply cannot let this happen – please show your support for our campaign by signing our petition. The more voices heard, the greater chance we have of this decision being reversed.