Miles Briggs: Health Secretary must half centralisation plan

Miles Briggs
Miles Briggs
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The Health Secretary should call a halt to the cleft lip and palate surgery centralisation plan, says Miles Briggs

Since becoming an MSP in May a large number of constituents in Lothian – and indeed people from across Eastern Scotland – have contacted me to express their opposition to the plans to remove cleft lip and palate surgery from Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital and centralise the service in Glasgow.

The Edinburgh unit currently provides world-class care for children with cleft lip and palate conditions up and down East Scotland from Aberdeenshire to the Borders. Despite significant public opposition – an online petition has been signed by 5800 people – and the concerns of medical clinicians, these plans were approved by Scottish Health Board Chief Executives on June 21 and the final decision to go ahead will be made by Health Secretary Shona Robison at the end of July. I am calling on her to halt the centralisation and leave the current service provision as it is.

All of the parents who have been in touch have emphasised the outstanding service offered by the specialist team in Edinburgh which has quite simply transformed the lives of hundreds of our children. Such is the world-class reputation of Edinburgh’s cleft lip and palate surgical team, the unit is due to host the International Congress on Cleft Lip/Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies in 2021.

Many parents believe last year’s consultation on the proposal was flawed and lacked transparency and that the expertise that has been built up in Edinburgh over many years will be lost if the service is taken away. The Cleft Lip & Palate Association has said no clear evidence has been provided to justify the move. Local parents in particular worry about extra journey times to Glasgow and the additional stresses that places on families.

I tabled a motion in parliament on this subject last month and I am very encouraged that it has been signed by numerous MSPs from across the political spectrum. It demonstrates the extent of the alarm about the proposed centralisation. My motion is now eligible for a member’s debate in the Scottish Parliament when it resumes from the summer recess. But I hope this might prove unnecessary if the Health Secretary looks at the evidence and listens to the very real concerns of parents, patients and clinicians, all of whom want to ensure our children have access to the best possible cleft lip and palate surgery.

• Miles Briggs is MSP for Lothian and Scottish Conservative spokesman on public health & mental health