Pledge To Continue Children’s Cancer Services In Aberdeen

The Scottish Government has given one of the strongest indications to date that children’s cancer services in Aberdeen will be saved.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison has revealed all the current proposals for Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital (RACH) are for existing services to continue rather than being downgraded.

The news is a major boost to the campaign to retain children’s cancer services in the north-east after it was feared that patients would have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.

In 2005 a major review of the NHS recommended that specialist services across Scotland should be centralised to provide the best possible treatment.

The Kerr Report argued that centralising services would ensure that doctors gained key experience in their specialist fields and in the expensive, technical equipment provided.

Two casualties of the proposal were children’s cancer and neurosurgical services provided by NHS Grampian in Aberdeen.

Fears of facilities being downgraded in Aberdeen came to a head with the announcement that major surgery for cleft lips and palates will be carried out only in Edinburgh and Glasgow. While there have been claims that children’s cancer services are to be saved, they have never been substantiated.

But Ms Robison revealed that under the current proposals RACH would continue to provide diagnosis and initial treatment for some of the children with cancer within the parameters of the managed clinical network.

“It will, however, continue to refer those with more complex cancer to centres elsewhere in Scotland, or indeed England, if required as is the case at the moment,” she said.

“The current referral pattern is based upon the existing level of expertise available in the centres in Scotland.”

The public health minister laid out the latest position in a letter to Aberdeen North SNP MSP Brian Adam, who said: “That sounds terribly like the status quo to me.”

He added: “I think this letter is very positive. It is quite clear the service is likely to continue and obviously dependent on the option appraisal it may well continue as it is. It is certainly my hope and what I have been asking for.”

The final report of the national steering group is expected out soon. It will then be subject to a three-month consultation before a decision is made.