Parents are campaigning against an NHS plan to move children’s cancer services out of Sutton's Royal Marsden Hospital.

NHS England London has launched a consultation into proposals to move cancer services for children under 15 to either St George's Hospital in Tooting or Evelina Children's Hospital, near Westminster Bridge.  

The move has been proposed because the NHS now wants all special cancer treatment for children to be in the same place as a Level 3 intensive care unit (ICU) for children, which the Royal Marsden does not have. 

But parents are saying that this change would make things more difficult for them and cause problems with how their children are treated.

A campaign, branded #HearTheMarsdenKids, has been put together to oppose the proposal, branding it "poorly justified".

Jenny Houghton from Epsom, who has organised the campaign, said: “The implications of this decision are huge, not only financially but for the quality of care of crucially-ill children across Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Medway and south west London, horrendous travel issues and much more.”

Jenny's own 6-year-old son Lewis had been treated and looked after at the Royal Marsden.

Your Local Guardian: Lewis Houghton at the Royal Marsden

He has been in remission since 2015.

A petition launched by the parents has already been signed nearly more than times, as of October 23.

The parents contest the claim that the move would help meet future need for children to be treated in an intensive care unit and claim to have spoken to medical experts who dispute this.

In 2019/20 only 7.7 per cent of patients treated at The Royal Marsden were transferred to St George’s for potential ICU care, and only 3.3 per cent of those actually needed the ICU.

Parents are particularly worried about the longer travel times that they say would affect around 63.6 per cent of patients who don't live in south east or south west London.

NHS London says it will reimburse one family member for travel expenses when accompanying their child.

However, this means that other parents would still need to cover any extra costs themselves.

Jenny added: “This proposal favours the idea that patients would travel by public transport to reduce their journey time to hospital – parents of critically ill children with weakened immune systems would simply not risk this.

“Both hospitals being proposed have limited parking available and Evelina London is also within the congestion charge zone.”

The Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, is based on the same site as The Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton.

And campaigners are worried that moving children away from this partnership could mean they lose access to cutting-edge trials and treatments.

Jenny added: “This is estimated to cost around £40million at a time when the NHS is already underfunded, over-stretched and desperately in need of additional budgets and resources – how can this be justified?"

The campaigners have suggested an alternative 'risk-adapted' model whereby patients needing intensive care would receive specialised care at St George's Hospital, while most patients would still benefit from The Royal Marsden's care.

Dr Chris Streather, regional medical director for NHS England (London), said: “Our proposals are designed to create a future children’s cancer centre which has the experience and expertise of the existing service but is on the same site as a children’s intensive care unit and other specialist services for children.

"It is clear there is a huge strength of feeling about cancer services for children, and understandably so. The Royal Marsden provides a safe, high-quality service, but it does not have a children’s intensive care unit and so the children’s cancer centre needs to be relocated.

"Whichever of the two locations is chosen, our vision is for the future centre to build on the strengths of the existing service - providing high-quality care by expert staff, good access to clinical trials, a family-friendly centre, strong links with groundbreaking research working closely with the Institute of Cancer Research and achieving world-class outcomes for children with cancer for decades to come.

"No decision will be made until the public consultation has concluded.

“We have already heard from a wide range of patients, families, and other groups which has informed our proposals and we now want to hear from as many people as possible before the consultation closes on 18 December."

The petition has already got over 4,000 signatures.

For more information on the plans and to comment on the consultation go to

The parents petition is available to view at