Child cancer unit to move to central London hospital despite opposition from MPs and parents

St George’s Hospital (PA)
St George’s Hospital (PA)

The NHS has announced that specialist cancer services will move from south west London to a central London hospital despite opposition from MPs and a petition against the change that gained more than 12,000 signatures.

Evelina London was chosen due to its “wide range of services, support for hospitals across its catchment area to look after poorly young patients, and strong performance in research”, NHS England said.

Cancer services for children aged 15 and under are currently provided by the Royal Marsden centre in Sutton and St George’s hospital in Tooting, but will be provided from the Evelina, in Waterloo, in future. The move will not take place until after October 2026 at the earliest.

Both St George’s and the Royal Marsden treat around 1,400 children at any given time, including patients from Brighton, East Sussex and Kent.

But under new national guidelines, specialist cancer treatment must be provided on the same site as a Level 3 children’s intensive care unit, which the Royal Marsden currently does not have.

London medical director at NHS England, Dr Chris Streather, thanked everyone who took part in the 12-week public consultation.

“This is a positive step forward for children’s cancer care – at the new location, children who need intensive care will be able to get it on site and the future centre will stand ready to give cutting-edge treatments that require intensive care on site, like other major centres worldwide,” he said.

“Service reconfiguration is rarely easy, but the decision taken today will ensure that children with cancer in south London and much of the south east will continue to receive the best possible care now and into the future.”

Director for NHS London, Caroline Clarke, said it had been “an incredibly hard decision”.

"I've got a 14-year-old and I cannot imagine what it's like, so to those of you who are parents and carers on that journey: thank you so much for your involvement in that process and I just want to recognise how difficult that's been for people," she told the South West London and Surrey Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

MPs warned on Wednesday that relocating the services would not be in the “best interests” of staff and patients.

Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, expressed her concerns in a letter to Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, penned alongside Liberal Democrat leader and Kingston MP Sir Ed Davey and Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park.

The MPs wrote of the plans: “Moving the cancer centre away from St George’s risks losing such institutional expertise and professional networks that have developed over decades. We are also concerned about the potential risk the proposed relocation poses to the delivery of other crucial NHS services in southwest London.”

They claimed that the consultation “reinforced the fact that St George’s is a better option”, noting that the hospital was more convenient to access by car than the Evelina.

In a statement on Thursday, Ms Wilson said she was “deeply saddened and concerned” by the decision to move services from St George’s Hospital.

She said: “I am however, not surprised. This decision had been predetermined from the start, with NHS England ignoring concerns expressed from many patients, families, and clinicians that the services should remain at St George’s given their unparalleled expertise. Moving this service raises major questions around risks to both children’s cancer care and the wider delivery of services in southwest London and beyond.

“These families deserve to know if their views have been properly taken into account. However, they can’t thanks to the way that NHS England have conducted this process.

“That is why I am calling on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to intervene and use her powers to call in this decision for a fresh review.”

Parents had also led a campaign to prevent services being moved from the Royal Marsden, arguing that any move would worsen travel logistics for families.

Both proposed hospitals have limited parking, parents said, and Evelina London is within the congestion charge zone – potentially leading to increased costs as only one family member can be reimbursed for travel.

They also say there is no guarantee that the new service would improve or even equal the current “world-leading” programmes in place at the Royal Marsden.

Cancer care for patients aged 16 and above will continue to be delivered at the Royal Marsden.