PARENTS today said they were devastated by the decision to close a world-leading specialist cleft lip and palate unit in Edinburgh and centralise the service in Glasgow.
They had campaigned for more than a year to save the surgical unit at the Capital’s Sick Kids Hospital.
But Health Secretary Shona Robison decided services in Edinburgh and Glasgow should be merged on one site in the west. She said it would ensure a “safe and sustainable service” for cleft patients across Scotland. The merger will start early in the new year, leading to a single surgical team within six months.
Dr Hala Stephens, a GP and mother-of-three from Joppa, whose nine-year-old son Jakob has had surgery at the Capital unit, said she was very disappointed at the decision.
“We have had an amazing service in Edinburgh,” she said. “My son had amazing results from the operation and the speech therapy and to lose that service is absolutely gutting. It’s such a shame our voice had not been listened to.
“Jakob is awaiting an operation in the next few weeks so now we don’t know what is going to happen about that.”
The centralisation in Glasgow had been recommended by NHS bosses. But parents argued Edinburgh’s team was world-leading and had better outcomes than Glasgow. Luke Dalrymple, whose son Orran also had surgery in Edinburgh, said the government’s decision was “terrible”.
He said: “We had been hopeful it would not come to pass. It’s really disappointing.
“All the evidence pointed in our direction, yet this is the decision they made.”
He said he feared the expertise of the Edinburgh team could now be lost.
“It’s an amazing team and they have fantastic results, but it seems quite likely to me we will lose them, which will be devastating.”
More than 100 babies are born in Scotland each year with a facial cleft, which occurs when parts of the face do not fuse together during pregnancy.
Conservative Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “This is one of the worst decisions regarding our health service this SNP government has taken and a bitter blow to thousands of patients and their families up and down eastern Scotland.
“Ministers have completely failed to listen to the views of clinicians, patients and campaigners.”
Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex-Cole Hamilton said: “This is very sad news for campaigners who worked tirelessly to keep the cleft unit open in Edinburgh.
“It’s an example of the Scottish Government looking to economies of scale over patient needs.”
Labour said it appeared no consideration had been given to the impact on patients and their families.
Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Denham, who spoke up for the Edinburgh unit in parliament, said: “Whilst this is not the outcome I was hoping for I now hope that the external expert working groups advice does lead to a safe and sustainable service for all patients.”