Council votes to back the campaign to save St George’s children’s cancer care
Published: Friday, July 21, 2023
Councillors have formally voted to back the campaign to save children’s cancer services at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
The endorsement came at this week’s full meeting of the council which voted in favour of a motion submitted by the council’s ruling group to oppose NHS England’s plans to transfer paediatric cancer services from St George’s to the Evelina Hospital in central London.
Among the areas of concern highlighted at the meeting was the difficulties patients would face travelling into central London. Families of young cancer sufferers prefer to travel by car instead of by public transport because of the significant risk of infection when children are immunosuppressed, particularly in the context of the COVID pandemic.
Councillors expressed concern that parking restrictions in central London – especially for prolonged periods of treatment - would create major difficulties for patients and their families.
These concerns have been strengthened by research published recently by national charity Young Lives vs Cancer which found that up and down the country “nine in 10 young cancer patients and their families (93%) used a car to make all or at least part of their journeys to and from hospitals and treatment centres.”
Although the charity’s research is not connected in any way with the proposals for St George’s, its findings about transport choices for patients mirror the council’s concerns about switching services to central London.
Its report goes on to say that “Many respondents viewed car travel as the “only viable way” to make the required journeys” and that car travel “felt a lot safer”.
Cabinet Member for Health, Graeme Henderson, who proposed the motion said: “The issue of safe and convenient travel for patients has been overlooked and downplayed in the proposals so far.
“Parents of children with cancer say it is far easier, more comfortable and safer to take their child to the hospital via car rather than public transport. This is especially important when children are on immunosuppressants.”
His words were echoed by the mother of a young cancer sufferer who recently told councillors of her concerns about the proposals. Jenny Houghton addressed last month’s Wandsworth Health Committee and said NHS England had not sufficiently taken account of parents’ concerns and experience around travelling with very sick children, and the cost implications of travelling into central London on public transport.
Council Leader Simon Hogg added: “The Council will continue the fight to save children’s cancer services in our local area. If you are a Wandsworth family who will be directly affected by these proposals, please get in touch with me at email@example.com”
The plans put forward by NHS England were due to be the subject of public consultation this summer but have now been put back until the Autumn at the earliest.
The services at St George’s support patients from across South West London, Surrey, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Kent and Medway.