Eastbourne parents fight for children’s cancer unit to stay
Eastbourne parents have joined a campaign to stop ‘controversial plans’ to move The Royal Marsden children’s cancer unit further afield into central London.
According to campaigners, more than 30,000 people have backed the It Must Be Marsden campaign in four weeks with action including a letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell demanding that the services do not move.
The Royal Marsden children’s unit in Sutton, south-west London, treats patients in the Oak Centre for Children and Young People from across Sussex, Kent and Surrey.
Campaigners say they are worried that switching the service to central London will increase journey times, risks of infection for patients because they will need to take public transport and the financial impact of having a child with cancer.
According to a campaign spokesperson, the battle to save the services launched after a ‘controversial’ report by Professor Sir Mike Richards this year outlined that the children’s cancer services must be ‘co-located’ with a paediatric intensive care unit.
Eastbourne father Dominic Smith said, “The stress and uncertainty of our poorly children having treatment for cancer is bad enough but to travel into London further than The Royal Marsden will be horrendous for all families who are already struggling with financing these difficult times.
“The extra time travelling will cause more stress and risk to the children when they’re so poorly. The treatment the Marsden gave my daughter saved her life and we will be forever grateful to them.
“The experiences we had at the other hospital weren’t so good when we had to visit on occasions and the distance to travel and park was incredibly also stressful for everyone.”
The Royal Marsden opened nine years ago by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge following The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s £18m fundraising campaign.
Chloe Matthews, from Eastbourne, who was a paediatric patient at the centre, said, “I was treated at the Oak Centre in 2013-2014 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 14. The centre was absolutely amazing, the staff provide outstanding support and the facilities are warm and welcoming for children, I spent the majority of my time in the pod by the playroom where play specialist Caroline would always come and visit me.
“The Oak Centre acts as a place of safety and comfort to me and I will be forever grateful for the support they gave me. The thought of this centre being closed down is devastating.”
According to a campaign spokesperson, 62 per cent of young patients who attend The Royal Marsden come from Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Nick van As, the medical director of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said, “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.”
For more information, visit www.itmustbemarsden.org.uk.