A CHILDREN’S cancer doctor is raising money for two charities researching and supporting young people with the disease after fundraising events have been called off due to Covid-19.

Paediatric oncology consultant Geoff Shenton first decided to shave his hair – in solidarity with the children he treats who lose theirs during treatment – but was urged by families of patients to do more.

Mr Shenton, who is based at the Great North Children’s Hospital at Newcastle RVI, which covers the whole North-East region, said: “I used to write in a purple pen, before we went electronic, and became infamous on the ward for it. I would get told off because we’re meant to use black or blue-black.

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“It was a fountain pen with purple ink, so that’s why people said to dye my hair purple before it’s shaved.”

The Great North Children’s Hospital is one of few in the country to offer immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s immune system to help fight cancer.

While suggestions for hairstyles were wide-ranging, including a rainbow mohawk, the 49-year-old doctor, who has never dyed his hair before, went purple on May 5 and shaved it off yesterday.

“To keep the colour longer would be inappropriate, even though the kids will find it hilarious,” he said.

“The shave is something visible I can do that’s more than running up some stairs, which is appropriate for my patients.”

Mr Shenton hoped the haircut, which took place in the ward at around 4pm yesterday, would raise £260 to fit in with the 2.6 challenge, an initiative to help charities raise money as big fundraising drives are cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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The dad has so far raised over £3,500 for the Children’s Cancer Fund and North East Children’s Cancer Research – surpassing his adjusted £2,600 target. You can donate here.

Infection prevention and control doctor Lucia Pareja-Cebrian, Mr Shenton’s wife, took on the job of cutting his hair so not to break social distancing.

Chester-le-Street woman Tracey Smith, whose grandson Lewis was treated by Dr Shenton for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, said: “Geoff is an amazing doctor and has a fantastic bond with his patients, he goes above and beyond to help these kids and their families so doing the fundraising doesn’t surprise us at all.

"Most of the families he has helped have now all supported him and sponsored him.

“We are forever grateful to Geoff for saving Lewis’ life and for everything he does for him and all the rest of the families."

Janet Price, fundraising manager for the Children’s Cancer Fund and North East Children’s Cancer Research, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Dr Geoff Shenton and everyone who has sponsored him for braving the shave.

"Both charities need support more than ever at the moment after the postponement or cancellation of all of our key fundraising events, such as the Children’s Cancer Run which was due to take place next week.

“The money he has raised will help to make life a little more comfortable for the children being treated for cancer at the Great North Children’s Hospital in these exceptionally difficult times. It will also help to ensure that the world class research into life-saving treatments carried out in Newcastle can continue to help children now and in the future.”

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Mr Shenton also says the greatest risk to cancer patients – who are currently shielded and won't feel an ease of lockdown for a long time – is not receiving the best care that they can.

He added: "We are worried because we've seen a reduction in the number of referrals we've had. If a child is sick at home, please bring them to a hospital to be checked over."

Caroline Docking, assistant chief executive of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, of which the Great North Children’s Hospital is part of, said: “We’re very proud that Dr Shenton is doing all he can, not only to raise awareness about childhood cancers and the importance of seeking professional medical help if parents and carers are worried, but also funds to help make the experience for some of our most vulnerable patients the best it can be, when in hospital.

“We’d like to thank Dr Shenton for putting his own head forward to raise money, and also the local charities who work tirelessly to support the children and young people we care for, from all over the North of England.”