Cleft palate service: call for review of closure proposal

Luke Dalrymple, pictured with sons Innis and Orran, says there is no evidence the service needs to be moved to a single site. Picture: comp

Luke Dalrymple, pictured with sons Innis and Orran, says there is no evidence the service needs to be moved to a single site. Picture: comp

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CALLS have been made for the Health Secretary to intervene over proposals to close a vital cleft lip and palate service for children in Lothian.

Facial clefts occur during early pregnancy if parts of the face do not fuse together properly, often requiring multiple surgeries to correct the problem.

They can’t provide evidence of why the service needs to be moved to a single site. The whole thing is outrageous.

Luke Dalrymple

Surgical services are currently provided at the Sick Kids Hospital and Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children for the condition, which affects around 100 live births in Scotland every year.

But Lothian patients could now face long journeys for care as NHS bosses are expected to recommend operating the surgical service solely from Glasgow following a meeting yesterday, the News understands.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack has urged Health Secretary Shona Robison to implement an independent review after expressing grave concerns about lack of transparency in the decision-making process and the impact the change might have on patients.

She said: “What’s not being considered is the quality of patient outcomes which should drive critical decisions like these. Concerns about centralisation are being ignored and that’s not acceptable.”

Patients have raised concerns that the move is “the thin end of the wedge” and smaller cleft clinics providing orthodontics and speech therapy could also be closed, despite reassurances to the contrary. A petition to save the service has attracted more than 2700 signatures.

Rosanna Preston, chief executive of the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, said: “We haven’t been given any evidence to say why we can’t continue with the status quo. What we need from them is clear evidence on how it would look on one site or another.

“I know there is concern among families that this is the thin end of the wedge. However the review is only about surgical services. There are lots of other non-surgical cleft services that are provided locally, so there’s concern there, but we have written assurance that those services are not moving.”

A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland said local clinics would still be provided even if the surgical service is moved from Lothian.

The spokesman added: “No decision has been taken, and it would be for Scottish Ministers to decide on the future of this service. However, services do need to be properly staffed and resourced to provide a high quality, sustainable service for the long term. Specialist services like this with a few complex operations a year often benefit from concentrating surgical skills in one place.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the final decision on surgical services will be passed to NHS board chief executives before it is considered by ministers in the new year.

Sick Kids team praised

Father-of-two Luke Dalrymple praised the team at the Sick Kids Hospital for their work with his son Orran, who was born with a bilateral cleft palate.

Orran, now six, had to undergo two surgeries to rectify the cleft, as well as extensive orthodontic work and speech therapy.

Luke, who lives near Pathhead, said: “The team were really great with Orran. They picked it up during an early scan and the team were out to see us that weekend. I can’t praise them enough. They are an example of what makes the NHS great.”

The 34-year-old said shifting the service could be very difficult for families going through the procedure and it could result in a loss of skilled staff from the Edinburgh team.

He said: “I am very unhappy with how this has all gone.

“I have asked repeatedly but they can’t provide evidence of why the service needs to be moved to a single site. The whole thing is outrageous.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com