A History of LATCH
LATCH was formed in 1982 by a group of families and friends who recognised that the children diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia and their families not only needed medical support, but also social and welfare support to ease the huge financial and emotional burden placed on families with a child on treatment. At that time, the Children’s Oncology Unit was based in Llandough Hospital.
Dr Eileen Thompson MBE, MD, FRCP, DCH who was the senior Paediatric Oncologist Consultant at that time was the founder member of LATCH and one of the major driving forces behind its development. They called the charity LATCH as an acronym of: Llandough Aims to Treat Children with Cancer and Leukaemia with Hope.
The first major project LATCH embarked upon was the building of parent accommodation on the grounds of Llandough Hospital and this was opened in 1982. Children can be in hospital for weeks, if not months, at a time and it is essential to their well being that they have their families close by.
The next appeal was to raise money for a new outpatients treatment centre with more recovery beds and more modern facilities. The charity then expanded its remit to be able to buy medical equipment in order to by a CT scanner for the unit.
The late 1980s
In the late 1980’s LATCH funded the cost of building a bone marrow transplant room and paid the costs of the first five bone marrow transplants for children in Wales. It was also recognised that there was a need to look after children in the community whilst they were on treatment and, particularly, if they had been diagnosed as terminally ill. LATCH funded the first two community nurses who liaised with GP’s and schools. They also administered intensive treatment in the home and provided terminal care when required.
The early 1990s
In 1992 LATCH launched its appeal for a new 10-bedded unit with clean air facilities. Whilst the appeal was running, it became nationally recognised that the needs of teenagers had been ignored. LATCH’s appeal therefore turned out to be for a two-storey unit providing ten beds downstairs for younger children and five beds upstairs for teenagers. The cost to LATCH was £800,000. The new unit was officially opened in April 1995.
In 1992, LATCH also started to fund a team of dedicated social workers to work with the families and help support them both practically, emotionally and financially.
During this period, LATCH also funded a pioneering Doctor’s post that specialised in palliative medicine for children. The aim of this post was to provide support and advice to GP’s, community nurses and other members of the home care team to ensure the children who, sadly, cannot be cured, die as peacefully and as free from pain as possible in their own home.
In 2005, the paediatric oncology unit relocated to the new children’s hospital for Wales. In 2002, LATCH launched a successful campaign to raise £800,000 to build an extra storey on the new hospital building to house parents’ accommodation and a dedicated out-patient unit.
The new oncology ward was named after Dr Eileen Thompson in recognition of her commitment and dedication over the 25 years that she was involved with LATCH.