Centralisation of cleft palate service ‘a disaster’ say critics

The Scottish Government has been accused of breaking its promises.
The Scottish Government has been accused of breaking its promises.
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THE Scottish Government has been accused of breaking its promises over cleft palate services following the decision to shut a specialist unit in Edinburgh and centralise surgery in Glasgow.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said Health Secretary Shona Robison had given assurances at the time that local outreach clinics would continue across Scotland.

But campaigners say families in Edinburgh and the East of Scotland now have fewer clinics, longer waits and more travelling.

And in a written answer, Ms Robison acknowledged clinics were no longer being held in Fife, with patients redirected to Edinburgh.

Mr Briggs said: “The decision to centralise the cleft palate service has been a disaster.

“The families of babies and young people who require the service are the ones losing out.

“It was a key part of the announcement from Shona Robison that these outreach clinics would continue to be delivered. They have not been – and that’s unacceptable.”

The changes took effect last year, but the one Edinburgh cleft surgeon did not transfer, leaving the new unit with just the two existing Glasgow surgeons.

Evonne McLatchie, of the Edinburgh Cleft Group, said the campaigners had predicted all the problems which were now materialising.

She said: “There used to be three clinics a month in Edinburgh, though one was not exclusively cleft. But now there are just two – and they have to fit the Fife people in as well so people are having to wait longer.”

She said there used to be multi-disciplinary clinics so families could see surgeon, speech therapist and orthodontist all at the same time. “They are not doing that so much any more, so parents are having to go more often and not always to the same place, so they’re having to travel more.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which is now responsible for the cleft surgical service across Scotland, said it was “actively recruiting” for a third surgeon to join the team.

“The temporary reduction in clinics has ensured the two surgeons have been able to provide a safe service with increased theatre sessions.”

Ms Robison said the service was working hard to ensure that all children with cleft lip and palette received the high-quality and time-appropriate surgery they required. “Staff across NHS Scotland work tirelessly to ensure cleft patients receive their surgery on time and without delay.”