Information about how the cleft service is running during the recovery phase of the Covid19 pandemic

To all our patients and families,

Cleft services are currently running but we need to take measures to reduce the spread of infection and keep you and your family safe so we are having to work differently. The service may change to reflect current advice but we will endeavour to keep this page updated to reflect the current service.

Surgery for children

Cleft surgery for children is running at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. We are booking patients based on the urgency with which they need to be done. We are making these decisions based on the type of surgery you/your child needs and your/your child’s age as well as any additional medical problems that may make it safer to postpone the surgery (exactly as we would under normal circumstances). This might mean that you are not in the same place on the waiting list as you were before Covid19.

Once we have a date when we will be able to carry out your/ your child’s surgery we will contact you by phone and you will receive a letter. You will be given an appointment with the preadmission team who will contact you by telephone to make sure you/your child is fit for surgery. The preadmissions team will arrange for you to bring your child into the hospital within 72 hours of their surgery to have a test for Covid19; this will be done by swabbing the back of yours and your child’s nose with a cotton bud.

If you/ your child or any member of your family has symptoms of Covid19, or you think you have had contact with someone who is infected with Covid19 it is essential that you let us know. Further information about coronavirus symptoms can be found here:

If you/ your child or any member of your household has symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has Covid19, you/ your child tests positive for Covid19 or your child is not able or willing to have a test for Covid19 we will postpone your/your child’s operation.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital Trust is not asking patients to shield (remain at home with contact only amongst household members) before surgery. Currently, the trust policy is that only one adult will be able to come with you/your child when they come in to hospital. You can swap over, for example, if one parent needs to return home to look after other children, but this must be done outside the hospital. In line with government guidance we ask that you wear a face covering while you are in the hospital and follow hand-washing and social distancing guidance.

We understand that some of you may have concerns about you/ your child having surgery at this time. If you would like further information about Covid19 and surgery please see the guidance from the Royal College of Surgeons

Surgery for adults

Due to the greater impact of Covid19 on adult services, we are not able to offer surgery for adults at the current time. We understand that this might be difficult for those of you waiting for surgery and thank you for your patience. We will keep this page updated as we get more information.

Out-patient clinics

These include all appointments with cleft and maxillofacial surgeons, ENT Cleft surgeons, hearing tests, orthodontics, dentists, psychology and speech and language therapists.

We have now restarted face-to-face appointments for both children and adults in Birmingham Children’s hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. We will only bring you/ your child into the hospital if we cannot assess or manage your/your child’s condition at home and we are performing most of our out-patient appointments “virtually” (by phone or video).

Face-to-face appointments

If you are offered a face to face appointment and you or any member of your household has symptoms of Covid19 or have had contact with someone who is infected with Covid19 please do not come to the hospital. Stay at home and let us know that you will not be coming. Please do not arrive at the hospital more than 5 minutes before your appointment time so that the waiting room does not become crowded and in line with government guidance all adults and children over 11 years of age should wear a face covering in the hospital. Please observe social distancing and hand washing guidance in the hospital.

To prevent the spread of infection, we are trying to limit movement around the hospital. You may be asked to remain in one room and different professionals may come in to see you in the same room instead of you moving between different rooms as before the pandemic. Staff will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep you and themselves safe. They may be wearing masks, aprons, gloves and visors or goggles.

For patients in the adult service, further information about attending appointments at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham can be found here:

Virtual appointments

We may offer you a “virtual” clinic appointment via telephone or video link. You will be sent a letter 2 weeks before with the date and time of your appointment. This appointment will replace your face-to-face appointment and unless you bring up a concern that needs to be managed face-to-face, we will not ask you to come into the hospital to repeat the appointment.

For telephone appointments, please make sure that your phone is on and you can hear it, you have sufficient battery and are in a place with good telephone reception at the time of your appointment. We will try all telephone numbers that we have on record for you. If you think that we might not have the correct telephone number for you please email your telephone number along with the name and date of birth of the patient to for children or for adults.

If you would like information about video appointments at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, please click on the link below: West Midlands Cleft Lip and Palate Team Virtual Appointment Guidance [pdf] 593KB

For patients in the adult service, information about video appointments will be sent out with the clinic letter.

Speech therapy

Due to the backlog of patients waiting for cleft surgery, your baby may be older when they have their cleft palate repaired. We understand that you may be concerned that this may affect their speech. If your baby is waiting for palate repair, you will be contacted by telephone or video and given some advice about how you can encourage your child’s speech development. You will meet a speech therapist when you bring your child to their clinic appointment after their palate has been repaited.  Most speech therapy appointments are being carried out virtually.

Follow the links below for information about how you can encourage your child’s speech, before and after palate repair.

New babies

If you are pregnant or have just delivered your baby, congratulations! Welcome to the cleft service. You will be contacted by a Cleft Nurse Specialist shortly after your baby’s cleft has been diagnosed. They will visit you in the hospital or at home to assess your baby and provide support within a few days of their birth (or of the cleft being diagnosed if this is later). They will be able to provide you with specialist feeding bottles and other equipment at this visit. 

You will be asked to bring your baby to the hospital so you can meet your surgeon. Please see the information above about “face-to-face appointments”. We are performing surgery for babies with cleft at this time, see information about “surgery for children”.

Contact details

Please read the above information before contacting the cleft team. I’m sure you understand that all our staff are extremely busy right now and it may take some time to get back to you.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital

0121 333 8235 (Natalie Matthews - Cleft Service Manager)

Queen Elizabeth Hospital

0121 371 4991 (Jennifer Davis – Cleft Team Secretary)

We understand that the disruption to the service is stressful and difficult and we appreciate your patience and understanding during this time. The situation is changing rapidly and we will aim to keep this webpage updated, including details of changes to the availability of surgery and out-patients appointments.