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The impact of COVID-19 on cleft services in Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Lookup NU author(s): Peter Hodgkinson


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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. Introduction: Cleft lip and/or palate is the most common craniofacial anomaly and occurs in 1 in 650 to 700 live births in the United Kingdom (UK). The majority of cleft surgery is elective, and as a result, almost all cleft surgery was suspended across the UK in March 2020 during the first national lockdown. The UK has centralised regional Cleft Services which all use the same agreed target-age standards for primary surgery including lip and palate repairs. The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) response has caused a delay in carrying out procedures. The severity of this delay depends on the impact of COVID-19 on local trusts and R-value within that region. As the country goes through the second and third wave, the impact could be long lasting, and we aimed to quantify it so that the data could be used to guide service prioritisation in the NHS and help future workforce planning. Methods: An online survey was designed based on the cleft quality dashboard indicators and circulated nationally to all nine cleft regions in the UK. The survey was divided into three main headings: • Duration of suspended cleft services • Quantification of the impact on delayed in surgery/services • Changes needed to restart surgery/services Results: We obtained a 60% response rate with five completed surveys from five out of nine regions. All regions reported that they suspended their cleft services in March 2020 around the time of the first wave and the first national lockdown. There has been an impact on delayed surgical and clinical interventions for cleft patients. Regions were affected differently with some on an exponential waiting list growth projection, whereas other teams are on track to recover from the backlog within 7–22 weeks. There has been an impact on the allied health professionals' services within the cleft multidisciplinary team. The cleft nurses' 24-h reviews, Speech And Language Therapy (SALT), and psychology maintained service delivery in some format. Patient-facing services such as audiology and dentistry were significantly disrupted and continue to experience delays due to reduced capacity. Conclusions: Various regions have seen a varied impact from COVID-19 on their services, from all cleft regions there seems to be an impact on achieving surgery within the national target age. The adverse effect of the COVID-19 impact is unlikely to be known for a few years to come; however, the data are a useful guide when supporting the allocation of resources within the healthcare setting. A prospective long-term study is required to assess the impact of COVID-19 on cleft surgery, follow-up, assess access to allied health professional MDT clinics, and long-term complications.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Arnaout A, Martin S, Hill C, Hodgkinson P, Thorburn G, O'Neill TB, Moar K, Treharne L, Hall P, Miyagi K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery

Year: 2022

Volume: 75

Issue: 5

Pages: 1689-1695

Print publication date: 01/05/2022

Online publication date: 01/12/2021

Acceptance date: 12/11/2021

ISSN (print): 1748-6815

ISSN (electronic): 1878-0539

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.bjps.2021.11.080


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