Bexhill and Battle parents back campaign to keep children’s cancer services at Royal Marsden

Bexhill and Battle parents are backing a campaign to demand that children’s cancer services remain at the Royal Marsden.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 1:34 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 4:39 pm

Nationwide more than 30,000 people are backing the It #MustBeMarsden campaign.

It launched after a report by Sir Mike Richards to the NHS said children’s cancer services could be moved away from the Royal Marsden in Sutton, just nine years after it was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge following an £18m fundraising campaign by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. 

Instead a centre where there are currently no children’s cancer services could be set up at a hospital in central London.

Katie Jeffrey's son, Jack SUS-200316-132141001

Bexhill and Battle residents have spoken out against the plan.

Mum Katie Jeffreys said: “As a parent who has been in this position, I am deeply concerned about the possibility of the centre closing down and feel that it would be the wrong decision. 

“It is a horrendously long journey as it is, to travel your poorly child that far, and the possibility that it could end up even further away is just unacceptable. 

“It’s an extremely worrying and scary time for both child and parent and the added worry of having to travel further and for existing patients to have to move to a new location will make an already difficult time worse.”

Karan Pettitt, whose son had radiotherapy at the Marsden in Sutton, said: “Any further away would have meant he couldn’t keep going to school and keep in touch with his friends.”

Natasha Morris’s son was treated at The Marsden after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. 

She said: “The Marsden at Sutton and the people in it have helped me and my son massively. He’s got used to a lot of people who work there and isn’t threatened anymore.

“To change it and make children go to another hospital would confuse and distress my son and many others.”

The Marsden’s children’s services are rated by the Care Quality Commission as Outstanding for being caring and Good in all other areas. 

It has about 12,000 patient attendances a year. The impact of the life-saving research it undertakes in Sutton with the Royal Marsden’s academic partner, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), is ranked third in the world.

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of young patients who attend the Marsden in Sutton come from Kent, Surrey and Sussex. 

Campaigners said they are worried that switching the service to central London will increase not only journey times but risks to patients because they will need to take public transport, and the financial impact of having a child with cancer.

In his report, Sir Mike recommended to the NHS England board that changes were required to ‘minimise risk to patients’.

Safety concerns were raised over the time taken to transport children between the Royal Marsden in Sutton and St George’s Hospital in Tooting due to a lack of an intensive care unit at the Sutton site.
Nick van As, medical director of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The evidence shows our service is entirely safe. We have never experienced a serious incident in relation to the transfer of children from the Royal Marsden to St George’s paediatric intensive care, and the Care Quality Commission has assessed this specific aspect of our model as safe, noting that transfers take place ‘without compromising safety’.

“The Royal Marsden in Sutton ensures that children and young people with cancer receive the very best treatment and care, including access to clinical trials to improve survival, expertise in oncology, and modern, age-appropriate facilities.

“The Care Quality Commission recently assessed the trust as ‘a beacon of outstanding practice’ and our children’s service as ‘Good’ for safety and ‘Outstanding’ for caring. Patients and families consistently rate us as one of the best centres in the country for patient experience.

“We believe that a proposal which retains the Royal Marsden’s cancer expertise, life-saving research, modern facilities and accessible location for the population we serve will continue to provide the best clinical outcomes and patient experience.

“We will be urging NHS England to demonstrate that any proposed changes can provide a better service for children with cancer and their families.”
NHS England’s board will make the final decision.