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Warning over plan to move children’s cancer services in south London

The Duke of Cambridge meets patient Charlie Miller, 3, with parents Daryl and Sally during a visit to the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in Sutton (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
The Duke of Cambridge meets patient Charlie Miller, 3, with parents Daryl and Sally during a visit to the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in Sutton (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Moving children’s cancer services from the Royal Marsden hospital in south London could have a concerning impact on vulnerable children who are undergoing treatments, council leaders have warned.

The NHS is considering moving specialist cancer treatment from the south London specialist facility

Cancer services for children aged 15 and under are currently provided by the Royal Marsden centre in Sutton and St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

Both facilities treat around 1,400 children at any given time, including patients from Brighton, East Sussex and Kent.

The NHS has proposed that services move to St George’s entirely or the Evelina Children’s Hospital in Lambeth.

New national guidelines mean specialist cancer treatment must be provided on the same site as a Level 3 children’s intensive care unit, which the Royal Marsden currently does not have.

Six London council leaders, as well as the leader of Surrey Council, have written a letter to the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to say they have “grave concerns” about moving children’s cancer services from the Royal Marsden.

The letter says: “Parents and clinicians tell us that the services provided by the Royal Marsden and St George’s are second to none and they already work well with other clinical services in the surrounding area.

“We are concerned about the impact that this reconfiguration will have on families with very vulnerable children who are undergoing cancer treatment.”

The letter also raises concerns about the impact on other services at St George’s Hospital if the children’s cancer treatment was moved.

It warns that “surgeons working across South-West London and Surrey would be drawn away into central London”.

“This could have an impact on the future sustainability of St George's Hospital while the Evelina would not be similarly affected as they do not provide these services at the present time,” the letter added.

Wandsworth Council has argued that St George’s Hospital, which has 25 years of experience in caring for children with cancer, would be the appropriate site to move the children’s cancer services to.

Council leader Simon Hogg has warned that moving the services “could have significant knock-on impacts on other specialist services at the hospital”.

Council leaders from Sutton, Wandsworth, Croydon, Richmond, Kingston and Merton as well as neighbouring Surrey have signed the letter to the Health Secretary.

Services are not expected to move before 2026.

Cancer care for patients aged 16 and above will continue to be delivered at the Royal Marsden.

The Department for Health has been contacted for comment.