Children’s Cancer Services in England – consultation response

In 2019 we responded to NHS England’s consultation on cancer services for children, teenagers and young adults. While we welcomed the direction of travel we identified a number of areas for improvement.

We submitted a joint response with the Paediatric Intensive Care Society.

Cancer services for children, teenagers and young adults (TYA) are commissioned on a national basis by NHS England. In this consultation NHS England described new specifications that would change current cancer networks for Children and TYA into Operational Delivery Networks (ODNs). The new ODNs would have responsibilities to drive improvements in cancer care and encourage recruitment into clinical trials through principal treatment centres, shared care units and designated hospitals.

Our response

  • Cancer services are focused on treating and caring for acutely unwell children and young people. While there is much to welcome in these proposals, we think that more can be done to ensure that the new specifications meet the needs of children and young people safely, effectively and as locally as possible, in line with all relevant clinical standards and guidance. 
  • Oncology treatment can be intensive and can be associated with known risks of serious and severe adverse effects. These new service specifications should do more to manage these risks in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • It is vital that there is good parent and child representation on ODN boards, embedding the voices of children and their families so that they have an influence over the design and delivery of services.

Our recommendations

  • Paediatric intensive care services should be available on the same site if the service plans to give high intensity treatment to a child. Children should not need a transport team or ambulance transfer to access intensive care in these circumstances.
  • Any differences between the individual service specifications should be driven by the aim of improving the safety and effectiveness of care and should be supported by evidence.
  • There should be a greater emphasis on seeking and responding to feedback from children and young people and their families in these specifications. This should happen in the design of the ODNs, in the services they deliver, and in the transition to these new arrangements.

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: health.policy@rcpch.ac.uk.