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National Children's Cancer Service Favoured

The Health Funding Authority (HFA) is supporting a recommendation that New Zealand establish a single national children's cancer service.

The HFA released a report today by Dr Michael Stevens, Medical Director and Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital, and Chairman of the United Kingdom Children's Cancer Study Group.

The HFA asked Dr Stevens to review the provision of services for children with cancer in New Zealand and to recommend the best way for services to be set up.

Dr Stevens visited all existing tertiary cancer service sites and some of the shared care sites and talked to clinicians, hospital managers, parents and child cancer groups.

His key recommendation was the establishment of a single national children's cancer service as a priority. This service must maintain an open and supportive relationship with the Child Cancer Foundation and CanTeen national executive.

He also recommended: * The national cancer service should provide tertiary services (those provided by a paediatric oncologist) from three centres; * The tertiary service currently provided in Dunedin should be merged with the Christchurch service, but Dunedin should remain as a high level secondary/ shared care centre; * Wellington should remain as a tertiary centre only if it becomes possible to achieve adequate paediatric oncologist (staffing) support; * No significant changes to the Starship service but Starship should lead the national service; * Shared care between the tertiary centre and the local hospital or primary care practitioner is to be encouraged so that patients and families have easier access to services when ever possible; * The HFA should establish a forum urgently to discuss with health professionals and the Child Cancer Foundation the appropriate level of financial and practical support for families who need to travel away from home to receive treatment

Personal Health Clinical Adviser Gabrielle Collison said the HFA was fully supportive of Dr Steven's recommendation for one national children's cancer service.

"This recommendation is the culmination of years of reviews and reports into the provision of child cancer services and Dr Steven's recommendation is a sensible and needed option.

"It will improve co-ordination of services and it will mean we will have the same guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and patient/family support throughout the country."

Dr Collison said the HFA would not be making decisions about any changes to existing tertiary service centres until it had received comments on the report from all interested parties, including the clinicians, affected hospitals and child cancer groups.

"The issue of where tertiary services should be based has been on the table since 1995 and the HFA wants to ensure that decisions reached are in the best interests of children.

"The review is solely about providing the best services possible. We want to ensure that children and families suffering the tragedy of cancer have access to the best treatment and services regardless of where they live.

"Each area has its own obvious interests in keeping services which is why it was important to bring in an independent reviewer to recommend the best way of proceeding," Dr Collison said.

Those involved in the review have a month to comment on the report and then the HFA will make recommendations on how it will proceed. Any recommendations adopted will take the Hospital Services Plan into account.

Dr Steven's report is available to the public by ringing the HFA's toll-free line 0800 Enquire (0800 367 8473).

Ends

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