SENIOR staff from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s cleft palate service are set to leave at the end of this month.
It is understood that up to four staff, including two senior nurses who have applied for transfers elsewhere in NHS Lothian, are quitting rather than move to the new centralised cleft palate service in Glasgow.
The move comes after Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison, decided to plough ahead with a trial for the proposed site after closing the specialist cleft lip and palate unit at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in the Capital.
Campaigners launched a petition called Save Our Sick Kids Surgical Services which attracted over 6,000 signatures and concerned parents have already branded the trial a failure, with one father saying there has been a lack of communication and no-one in the Scottish Government or the NHS in Scotland has a “handle” on the current situation.
On top of the two senior nurses, it is believed the Lothian cleft co-ordinator and the secretary for world-leading cleft consultant Dr Felicity Mehendale, who has not been part of the Glasgow team, are set to leave.
There are currently over 1,000 cleft palate patients in the east of Scotland with more than 100 babies born each year with a facial cleft – which occurs when parts of the face do not fuse together during pregnancy.
Luke Dalrymple, a 35-year-old teacher from Humbie in East Lothian, said he had been kept in the dark, despite meeting with consultants, over major reconstructive surgery for his seven-year-old son Orran who was previously operated on by Dr Mehendale.
He said: “We met with the surgeons recently and I can’t say that I’m any the wiser as to what is going on with the cleft palate services. In regards to the centralisation, I don’t think I learnt anything about that – it’s easy to pass the buck but it’s hard to know where the issues lie. I think the long-term concern here is still about the surgical side of things and what’s going to happen with Felicity and the Edinburgh team.
“In my opinion she has been treated so abysmally that she will leave – she’s the best cleft palate surgeon that Scotland has and arguably one of the best in the world.
“We’re definitely apprehensive about Orran’s future surgery, we don’t know where things are going to go, it’s all a bit up in the air and nobody really seems to have a handle on what the long term looks like.”
NHS Lothian said it did not comment on individual staffing issues.
A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland said: “The essential elements of specialist surgical care have been consolidated at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Childrens Hospital (QEUH), Glasgow and all care that can be provided locally is continuing to be provided locally.
“The changes have been put in place to ensure a sustainable, resilient and high-quality service for current and future surgical care for all patients with clefts who live in Scotland.”