Cleft Appointments During Lockdown

January 7, 2021

NHS Cleft Teams around the UK have reported that in the months since they’ve started to resume services, more people than usual are missing important appointments, whether face-to-face, online or over the phone. These are known as ‘Did Not Attends’ (DNA) or ‘Was Not Brought’ (WNB) for children.

We know there are many reasons why people might miss appointments or cancel them altogether, and together with the Cleft Teams we want to do what we can to help.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on every part of our daily lives, and medical appointments are no exception. For many, planning around already disrupted work or school schedules is more difficult than ever, and lockdowns and other restrictions can make families reluctant to come to face-to-face appointments. From our own survey, we also know that some families don’t have the technology needed for video calls, and that in some households it can be tough to find time at home without interruptions, leading in some cases to children ‘attending’ appointments by themselves, which isn’t an option.

Given these extra challenges, cleft clinicians are concerned that in some cases parents and carers may believe that because everything seems fine with their child, it isn’t necessary to attend a scheduled appointment. Chances are, everything is indeed fine, but these scheduled check-ups are still vital so any emerging issues can be caught and dealt with early on by the Cleft Teams.

Ginette Phippen, Clinical Lead at the Spires Cleft Lip and Palate Service, said, “We are here to support your child and identify any issues relating to their cleft that could impact on their health or well-being, now or in the future. This might be teeth, speech, hearing or appearance concerns, or questions about when your child will next be seen or have their planned surgery.”

CLAPA and the NHS Cleft Teams are urging everyone to treat every Cleft Team appointment as essential, and to attend every time, or reschedule when this isn’t possible. Your team will let you know if the details of your appointments have changed, but please get in touch with them if you’re uncertain or concerned you may have missed a call or letter.

Cleft Teams understand that this is a difficult time for families around the UK, and there are flexible options available including telephone appointments for those who can’t attend in-person or over videocalling. If you aren’t sure of the reason for an appointment, have any other concerns or questions, or if there’s anything else which would support you to attend an upcoming appointment, please get in touch with your Cleft Team.

Alternatively, if there’s anything you think CLAPA should know about to help us support the cleft community to attend appointments, please contact us.