Shake-up of children’s cancer care after decade-long arguments and cover-up claims

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London’s fractured children’s cancer services will finally be reformed after a decade of delays and allegations of cover-ups by senior officials.

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NHS England has said it will adopt recommendations that will bring the capital’s services to normal standards already in the rest of the country, requiring children’s cancer centers to be located in hospitals with full pediatric intensive care units.

The changes will be made applicable “without exception or special arrangement permitting”, it said. a letter tomorrow,


This means the Royal Marsden Children’s Service in Sutton, south London, will have to move to a new hospital. Sick children currently deteriorating at the Marsden site are taken by ambulance to St George’s Hospital, 40 minutes away.

Between 2000 and 2015 more than 330 children were transferred from Marsden to other hospitals and 22 children were transferred to intensive care a total of 31 times in one year, some of whom received at least three transfers individually. had experienced.

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The changes will also affect cancer care at University College London Hospital which is attached to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

The world-renowned Royal Marsden Trust, whose chief executive Dame Kelly Palmer is also NHS England’s national cancer director, was at the center of a cover-up scandal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, health service journal Revealed a major report commissioned by NHS bosses in London after the deaths of several children, Was “buried” by NHS England.

The death of two-year-old Alice Mason in 2011 from a brain condition prompted an official warning by a coroner about Royal Marsden’s model of care and in 2015 a report by a panel of cancer experts warned that children in south London were at risk .

The report, led by Mike Stevens, Emeritus Professor of Pediatric Oncology at the University of Bristol, was never made public and NHS England did not act on a central recommendation to reconfigure services.

Former CEO of Sir Simon Stevens, a close aide of Dame Kelly Palmer Was present at a meeting in 2015 Where it was decided not to publish the 2015 report.

NHS England’s own medical director for London Andy Mitchell went public in 2019 Accused his former employer of hiding the report Via “Bureaucratic Burial”. He said NHS England has had a “widespread influence from above” to prevent concerns being made public.

In 2016 an official warning was shown in internal emails between NHS England staff discussing the report that “supposedly ‘cover up’ could be a story in itself” and in a separate email of the Bristol Child heart scandal. Mentioned warned: “Possible to fly in our faces.”

The same was said about NHS England pressure on doctors in 2018 On his plans to recommend changes, which would mean the Royal Marsden site would have to be relocated. This also Interfere in another national report This was the first time, however, to recommend co-locating children’s cancer care with ICU services.

Following the revelations, former cancer czar and chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards were called in for a rapid review and supported plans for immediate access to intensive care services for children to reduce risk.

In January 2020, Sir Mike said that the current situation meant that children and their parents were forced “fairly frequently back and forth” between the two hospital sites, adding: “I don’t It seems that this situation should be allowed to continue longer than necessary.”

In a letter in response to their review published yesterday, NHS England said the new service specification “makes co-location with Level Three Pediatric Critical Care a mandatory requirement without any exceptions or special arrangements allowed.”

It said hospitals would now work to work out new solutions and there would be a public consultation.

A spokesman for the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: “We believe that the new specifications of NHS England are designed to pave the way for a new, future-facing service when on-site pediatric intensive care. Unfortunately, it is not feasible for us or the NHS to build and commission a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Royal Marsden.

“Our priority now is our professional duty to share our expertise for the benefit of children with cancer and their families to ensure that the new service is of the highest possible quality and in a smooth and timely manner for our staff and patients. Make sure you get the infection.”


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