Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Cleft lip surgery: Anger at proposal to close Edinburgh service

Baby with cleft lip Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Almost 100 babies are born every year in Scotland with a cleft lip or palate

Parents protesting against the proposed closure of surgical services for babies with cleft lip and palate are expected to attend a meeting in Edinburgh later.

They are angry that the NHS is considering merging Scotland's two facilities, in the east and west, into one clinic based in Glasgow.

The Cleft Lip and Palate Association has called for more detail about why the move to a single centre is needed.

The Scottish government said no final decisions have been made.

Almost 100 babies are born every year in Scotland with a cleft lip or palate.

Surgery can help them talk and eat. Scotland has two clinics - in Edinburgh and Glasgow - which specialise in these surgical procedures.

'Lack of evidence'

A public consultation is currently taking place about plans to merge them into one surgical centre, based at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Parents opposed to the plan have started a petition and gathered more than 3,500 signatures.

They argue the service in Glasgow has poorer results but senior NHS managers have insisted the single-handed surgical service in Edinburgh is not sustainable.

A public consultation meeting is being held in Edinburgh later, with another due to take place in Glasgow on Thursday.

The Cleft Lip and Palate Association, a voluntary organisation offering advice and support to those affected by the condition, said it was important that the views of patients were heard in the consultation process.

It previously said it wanted the surgical service to remain on two sites because of "a lack of evidence to show that the existing structure wasn't working".

It has urged the NHS to provide further detail "on either the issues with the current two centre model or the structure of a service based at one centre".

A spokeswoman said: "We will continue to ask for clear and transparent sharing of information regarding the review and its recommendation to move to a single centre, and we are also vigilant on the potential erosion of services across cleft teams as NHS budgets come under increasing pressure.

"We actively encourage all those in the cleft community, children and adults, to respond to the consultation process and to include CLAPA (Scotland) in their correspondence so we can continue to monitor the situation and ensure a broad spectrum of voices are heard at this crucial time in the consultation process."

'Complex operation'

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the review was an "on-going process" and that no final decisions had been made.

She added: "A consultation is underway, and the views of patients and families, are not just welcome, but an extremely important part of the process.

"It's important to state that this review applies only to specialist surgery services. It does not impact on other important cleft unit services such as orthodontist treatment, speech and language therapy and dentistry, which will continue to be provided locally throughout Scotland."

A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland said: "It is essential to have a service that can be properly staffed and resourced that 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."

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