Hopes of saving Edinburgh cleft surgery unit rise

Ash Denham, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern speaking in Wednesday's debate

Ash Denham, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern speaking in Wednesday's debate

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HOPES of saving vital cleft lip and palate surgery in Edinburgh have been given a boost after MSPs voted for a rethink on a series of planned health cuts.

The Scottish Government suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Scottish Parliament when opposition parties rallied behind a Labour motion calling for Health Secretary Shona Robison to overrule health boards and save a range of under-threat services across the country.

Campaigners fighting the plans to centralise cleft services in Glasgow also welcomed a speech during the debate by Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Denham urging Ms Robison to listen to the concerns of those affected by the proposed move.

Ms Denham said she “deeply sympathised” with families all over the east of Scotland who would face increased travelling time to use cleft services.

And she said the Edinburgh unit scored highly on speech standards which were used as goals after surgery, while the Glasgow team had on two occasions in the last four years failed to meet the pass standard.

She said: “The Edinburgh service with its multi-disciplinary team is one of the best in the UK and recognised as being of international standard.

“It is my belief that clinical evidence supports the retention of these services in Edinburgh. I believe that a one-service model over two sites is what is best for the children and young adults of Scotland.”

The centralisation of cleft services in Glasgow has already been approved by health board chief executives, but the final decision lies with Ms Robison.

Patients have handed over a petition of more than 6000 names calling for the scheme to be dropped.

Evonne McLatchie, of the Save Our Service – Edinburgh Cleft group, said the vote in parliament could help push the decision in the right direction.

She said: “I think it will help by bringing it to the forefront – and particularly now we have support from within the SNP.

“Up until recently we had support from every party except the SNP.

“But when we handed in our petition, Angus MacDonald [Falkirk East] became the first SNP MSP to speak publicly in support and then on Wednesday Ash Denham declared her support in the debate. It was absolutely fantastic.

“If there was no SNP support we would struggle, but now Shona Robison has people from within her own party questioning it.”

Miles Briggs, who led a debate at Holyrood on cleft services earlier this month, said: “I’m pleased that SNP MSPs have now come on board and started to speak out.

“This SNP government was elected on a manifesto commitment ‘to keep services local and improve the availability of these services’.”

“The Health Secretary is due to visit both the Edinburgh and Glasgow surgery teams over the next few weeks and I hope these visits will help to ­persuade her that a two-site model can work – as it does in so many locations across the UK – and is in the best interests of cleft patients across Scotland.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com