Councils to challenge controversial move of children’s cancer care unit

A council is set to refer the controversial decision to move children’s cancer services  to the new Secretary of State for Health.

​​Treatment for about 1,400 children aged under 15 is provided by St George’s Hospital in Blackshaw Road, Tooting and the Royal Marsden Hospital in Downs Road, Sutton.

But in March, NHS England said that from autumn 2026, the Evelina London Children’s Hospital in Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, will provide the care. As part of the move, radiotherapy will be provided at University College Hospital.

A cross-party campaign, led by Wandsworth council, will see Richmond, Merton, Kingston, Surrey and Sutton councils submit referrals to the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting.

Leader of Wandsworth council, Councillor Simon Hogg, said: “We have opposed these plans to move specialist children’s cancer care from St George’s from the start.

Evelina London Children’s Hospital in Lambeth (Picture: Google Street View)

“Our serious concerns remain – getting to Evelina Hospital through central London traffic will be challenging at the best of times. Travelling by public transport is not an option for vulnerable children who are on immunosuppressant medication.

“There has to be a better solution to these plans.”

The decision for the transfer was made after new service rules in 2021 set out that specialist cancer treatment services for children must be on the same site as a level-three children’s intensive care unit, which the Royal Marsden does not have.

NHS leaders said all three hospitals would “ensure a smooth handover” and have stressed there will be “no sudden changes to children’s care”.

But parents claimed the move would be more expensive, less efficient in terms of staffing, and could negatively impact patients by making it harder to travel by car for treatment.

A petition set up opposing the move in October 2023, by 45-year-old Surrey resident Jenny Houghton, has received more than 12,000 signatures. 

From left, Lewis Houghton being held by his father, and Jenny Houghton with their daughter (Picture: Jenny Houghton)

A spokesman from NHS England said: “We chose Evelina London as the future location for the service following a robust process over several years that has involved clinical cancer specialists, children with cancer and their parents, NHS staff, local communities and their representatives, this included a 12-week public consultation, and very careful consideration of all the information that was shared through this alongside other relevant evidence.

“Our consultation received more than 2,650 responses. Alongside this, we ran 115 online or face to face engagement meetings. Of these, 58 were with children, young people, their families and staff currently working in the PTC and 25 were with equalities groups.”

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: “The DHSC is aware of concerns raised by MPs, patients and Wandsworth council and will consider next steps.”

Find out more about Wandsworth’s campaign against moving specialist children’s cancer care away from the borough.

Pictured top: St George’s Hospital in Blackshaw Road, Tooting (Picture: Wandsworth council)

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