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Matt Hancock MP explains why he's planning to climb Mont Blanc in the Alps

While Secretary of State for Health I was thrilled to be able to push for, and commit, the first £100 million of public funding to build a children’s hospital in Cambridge that would service East Anglia. Incredibly, the East of England remains the only part of the country that doesn’t have a dedicated hospital for children. So, there is a pressing need for a new hospital to serve the region.

The planned Cambridge Children’s Hospital is a unique collaboration between Cambridge University Hospitals, the University of Cambridge and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

The team behind the plan has an inspiring vision, not just to create a new children’s hospital, but creating a world-class research centre that brings together the treatment of mental and physical health for children.

How the new children's hospital will look. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
How the new children's hospital will look. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

The vision for the hospital and the future of childcare in East Anglia has been laid out in four key areas of focus. The first of which is bringing mental and physical health together. Tradition has always kept mental and physical care separate. Siloed off by specialisms, disconnected across wards, split between hospitals miles apart. And yet for us, the two couldn’t be more connected.

Secondly, is making the abnormal normal. When you focus on curing an illness, you can often miss the other things a child needs. Their everyday routine, their education, drifting off to sleep in their own bed. This is why the hospital will adopt a holistic approach to childcare which maintains a normalised routine in a child’s life that they can bear and live with.

Thirdly, making sure we treat children far beyond the walls of the hospital. There has been a focus on syncing up health and social care in recent health debates and the prevailing view is that hospitals are where care should be delivered, as well as harnessing the positive benefits treatment closer to home can have in the right circumstances. In other words, the right care for the right child.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock

But what if we could stop an illness before it exists? It sounds far-fetched, but Cambridge is home to countless discoveries that at first sounded out of the box: Newton’s gravity, Darwinism, and Martin Evans’ theorised stem cell technology to name a few. But the most essential discovery for Cambridge Children’s Hospital is arguably that of structural DNA and the creation of sequencing. Discovered, if you believe the stories – and the plaque they ceremoniously maintain on the wall above the particular spot – in one of the oldest free houses in Cambridge, The Eagle Pub (established 1667); by James Watson and Francis Crick, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering the ‘secret of life.’ An apt moniker, as it is Cambridge’s connection to this discovery and its world-leading research in this area that has led academics connected to the hospital project to claim that the Children’s Hospital will be based on “next-generation science that will improve the lives of our next generation.” By comprehensively understanding a child’s genomic structure, we can reveal extraordinary insight into their life and by sequencing both their and their parents’ genomes, we’re able to identify any potential genetic disorders — even those that lie far into their future. That is the power this hospital, surrounded by world-leading research, could have.

However, the hospital needs additional funds to make this dream a reality. Which is why I will be attempting to climb to the summit of Mont Blanc - the highest mountain in the Alps - to raise money for the planned Cambridge Children’s Hospital.

As Health Secretary, I was delighted to be able to get the ball rolling, but to fulfil the cutting-edge vision of its founders, the hospital needs to double that level of support.

Every penny received will go towards supporting children’s care in East Anglia and in time, provide the most compassionate support modern medical science has to offer for children in need.

So, I hope you will join me in doing what we can to ensure this hospital gets the fund it desperately needs to support our children.