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NHS accused of “burying” damning child cancer report

NHS bosses have been accused of “burying” a damning report into child cancer services commissioned following complaints that patients were “dying in agony”. Completed in 2015, the document highlights failings at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, one of the UK’s flagship cancer organisations. It found that, despite being supposedly a centre of excellence, children admitted for cancer treatment were routinely transferred between hospitals to get the care they needed.

Compiled by Professor Mike Stephens, the report was commissioned after a coroner found “astonishing” failures in the care of a two-year-old girl, Alice Mason, leading to her suffering irreversible brain damage and dying in 2011. It recommended a radical shake-up of the Marsden’s services. The document was never made public, however, and former NHS medical director for London, Dr Andy Mitchell, accused the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, and Cally Palmer, England’s National Cancer Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Marsden, of suppressing its publication.

Dr Mitchell told the Health Service Journal (HJS): “I can’t imagine any other individuals having the power and influence to be able to stop this report moving forward.”

NHS England has denied that its then Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, was improperly leaned on and said the report remained unpublished because it made “implausible suggestions” which would have forced children with cancer to travel further for care. But Gareth Mason, Alice’s father, said: “To write a report, shelve it and not debate it, that is a cover-up [and] it has left children since Alice and danger, and the Marsden won’t acknowledge that.

The controversy surrounds the performance of a so-called “shared care system”, with the Marsden’s Sutton site forming part of a network for South London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

Critics say the format meant children were transferred between sites more regularly than they should have been and were put in danger because information was not properly shared.

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Source: The Telegraph, 19 June 2019  


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