Edinburgh GP calls to save cleft lip service

Hala Gammoh with her son Jakob Stephens. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Hala Gammoh with her son Jakob Stephens. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A GP has spoken out over proposals to close a specialist surgical service in the Capital which helped her son when he was born with a cleft lip and palate.

Surgical services are currently delivered in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but NHS bosses are in talks over whether to move to operating from a single service in the west.

More than 100 babies are born in Scotland each year with a facial cleft, which occurs during pregnancy when parts of the face do not fuse together correctly.

Parents have opposed the plan as they say Edinburgh operates a world-leading team, with better outcomes than the site in Glasgow.

Dr Hala Stephens, a mother-of-three who lives in Joppa, hailed the Edinburgh team who operated on her son, Jakob, twice – once when he was just six weeks old.

The St John’s Primary pupil, now aged eight, has had orthodontic treatment with local teams and he is waiting for a final bone graft.

Dr Stephens said: “When it comes to your child, obviously you would go to the end of the earth for them to get the best care.

“But there is no certainty that this move will provide better outcomes for patients.

“Of course there are other things like childcare for my other children and taking him out of school for days, but we would work around that if we knew he was getting the best possible care.

“Jakob has had excellent results from the surgery and he has no speech problems at all.”

Jakob even moved audiences to tears with his performance as Jesus Christ in the school Easter play this week, something which might never have been possible without the surgery.

His father, Nathan Stephens, who works as a surgical registrar in Glasgow, said: “It is not at all clear why they feel it is necessary to move the service.

“Why would you want to break up a team that is working really well together?

“Really good surgical teams are about everyone working together, not just the surgeon, and it’s clear that has been happening in Edinburgh.”

He also raised concerns about the consultation, as the family was only notified of a public meeting just two days before it was due to happen.

A petition against the proposed merger has attracted more than 4000 signatures.

Regular outpatient appointments and ongoing care will still be provided locally, regardless of the outcomes, said a spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland.

He said: “It is essential to have a service that can be properly staffed and resourced and which can provide a high quality, resilient and sustainable service for the long term for NHS Scotland.

“Specialist services like cleft lip and palate with a few complex operations a year often benefit from concentrating surgical skills in one place.

“The main patient group, the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, are supporting the consultation process to ensure that patient views are fully considered.”

The consultation will run until May 11 and a decision is expected later in the summer.

To view the petition visit: https://www.change.org/p/the-cabinet-secretary-for-health-wellbeing-and-sport-shona-robison-nhs-save-our-sick-kids-surgical-services?