FAMILIES of children forced to travel hundreds of miles for vital cancer treatment are calling for a dedicated centre to treat youngsters with the disease.
North Wales youngsters suffering with the condition are presently treated at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, or Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury.
The other alternative is the £21m Children's Hospital for Wales in Cardiff.
While parents appreciate the efforts of staff and doctors at the hospitals they want a centre closer to home, or an extension to the treatment unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, which is to undergo a £300m revamp over the next decade.
But health chiefs say the cost of a dedicated children’s cancer centre will be too great.
Clic Sargent, the UK’s leading children’s cancer charity, has backed their appeal.
In the last 12 months, just two North Wales children with cancer have been treated in the region, while in the past decade Alder Hey has dealt with more than 200 from Mold, Llanrwst, Rhyl, Abergele, Colwyn Bay, Bangor, Denbigh, Llandudno, Flint, Conwy, Wrexham and Caernarfon.
Wayne Roberts travels back and forth from Llanfairfechan to Alder Hey with two-year-old daughter Lowri, who has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment after she was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer. She has a tumour between her bowel and bladder.
He said: “I think it would be good to have a cancer centre in this area, it makes a lot of sense.
“It’s a long distance to travel up to Liverpool, especially for families further down the coast. It’s just a matter of where they put it, but maybe Bodelwyddan is the best place.”
He was backed by Mike Priestley, whose 13-year-old daughter Sian receives great care from Clic Sargent and Alder Hey after suffering a brain tumour.
“Being close to home is a tonic in itself,” said Mr Priestley, a Llandudno Junction county councillor
“A week last Tuesday we had the great news that Sian did not need any more brain scans and that they only need to see us once a year.
“We owe so much to the people and staff of Liverpool, especially Walton and Alder Hey, but I have to say that the journey does take its toll.
“I would rather go to Liverpool than Swansea or Cardiff, but if we can have a centre here in North Wales that would help a great deal of families from the pressure of travelling, and let’s face it when you are ill, you want to be at home.”
Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones has written to Assembly health minister Edwina Hart, calling for her to consider a children’s ward or an extension to the North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre in Bodelwyddan.
She said: “They do excellent work at Alder Hey and places like that but it’s not ideal for many parents and it’s about safeguarding the future for children in North Wales.”
However, consultant Dr Brendan Harrington, who leads children’s services for the North Wales NHS Trust, said there is no justification for a cancer centre for youngsters in this area.
However, he said they may be scope for change in the future.
He said: “It is unlikely there will ever be a full children’s cancer centre service in North Wales. The number of children we have every year would never meet the UK national standards for a safe service. These standards are good for families, so we never go against them.
“NHS reorganisation in North Wales may offer the chance to do a bit more than we presently do in the future.”
Dr Phil White, chairman of North Wales LMC, said: “The numbers are too small in North Wales, but it would be nice to have a centre here in an ideal world.
“The two mitigating factors are cost and expertise, and we have a centre of excellence at Alder Hey. I can understand the problems with transport and things like that but sadly it’s a fact of life. Going down the road to Liverpool is not such a sacrifice for the care they receive when some people fly over to America and places like that for treatment.”