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A children’s ’s cancer unit opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge five years ago was reported this week at being at risk of being axed.

The Royal Marsden hospital’s £18 million Oak centre in Sutton could lose out under plans to consolidate paediatric cancer services on one site in London.

An unpublished report commissioned by NHS England is said to favour Great Ormond Street hospital because emergency care can be provided less than a mile away at University College hospital.

By comparison, children being treated at the Marsden’s Sutton site have to be taken by ambulance to St George’s hospital in Tooting, about seven miles, away, if their condition suddenly deteriorates.

William, who followed his mother Diana in becoming patron of the Royal Marsden, and Kate opened the Oak centre in 2011 and backed its vision to become the leading paediatric cancer centre in Europe.

The cost of the 31-bed centre, designed to help 600 inpatients and 5,000 day patients a year, was funded entirely by private donations, including £3.5 million from the Teenage Cancer Trust.

It treats all types of cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma, solid tumours, as well as brain and spinal cord tumours, in patients aged from one to 24. Seven beds are reserved for patients on pioneering drug trials.

In a statement responding to the Guardian story, the Royal Marsden said:

The leaked review into children’s cancer care in London is an unpublished report which has not been officially shared with The Royal Marsden.

 There is robust data demonstrating that our service is safe and achieves tumour specific outcomes that are equal to or better than national and European averages. Patient experience audits undertaken independently (2015/16) show an average score of 97.6% of patients and families who would recommend The Royal Marsden’s paediatric oncology service.  

 The Royal Marsden is an internationally leading paediatric drug development centre with the highest level of patient recruitment to early phase paediatric studies in the UK, vital to improving survival for children and young adults. An expert European review panel ranked The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research first out of 40 centres in Europe in 2015 for the quality of its paediatric research.

The Royal Marsden and St George’s NHS Foundation Trust are designated as the joint principal treatment centre (PTC) of the South Thames Children’s and Young People’s Cancer Network. This is a shared care model which delivers safe, effective care to a high standard for children and young people with cancer providing comprehensive cancer care for children in South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  In 2011, the new Oak Centre for Children and Young People was officially opened by TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and offers a high-quality service in a state-of-the art environment.

The Royal Marsden provides cancer diagnosis, treatment, and non-surgical cancer therapy with St George’s providing the paediatric specialist surgery and paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

 We work closely with the South Thames Retrieval Team and the St George’s PICU team to provide a safe transfer service which has been commended through external audit.  Of over 600 admissions of children and young adults to The Royal Marsden in 2015/16, 22 patients required transfer to St George’s PICU.  

 We are happy to consider the clinical evidence and affordability of proposed models to provide the best service and benefit for patients and their families.  However, given the high standard of performance of the cancer specific model at The Royal Marsden any recommendation for change must be based on clear clinical evidence.

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