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child's anguish Mum devastated after baby son's cleft palate surgery cancelled at last minute

Rebecca said there are free beds in Newry and Antrim which should be used to free up beds in Belfast

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Lars had his surgery for cleft palate cancelled at the last minute. His mother says the condition has affected his ability to eat and could affect his speech in the future.

Lars had his surgery for cleft palate cancelled at the last minute. His mother says the condition has affected his ability to eat and could affect his speech in the future.

Lars had his surgery for cleft palate cancelled at the last minute. His mother says the condition has affected his ability to eat and could affect his speech in the future.

A mother has spoken of her anger after her 13-month-old son had an operation scheduled on his cleft palate cancelled at the last minute because there were no beds available due to pressures arising from the pandemic..

Rebecca, whose son Lars was due for surgery so that he could speak and feed properly, said she was told his third procedure could not go ahead on Friday because the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children had no post-operative beds.

Speaking to the BBC, Rebecca said her son had been fasting in preparation for the surgery and was only told when the family arrived at the hospital that there were no beds available.

She explained: "I was basically told [the operation] wasn't happening. We're just put back on the bottom of a waiting list again which could be months away.

"I'm so frustrated - so angry - because you're trying to do your best for Lars. It's been an absolute fight to get this routine surgery done.

"It's hard enough having the cleft palate and having to adjust to that and help him develop and grow, but just to be knocked back, you just feel like you're screaming out for help and it's not there."

Rebecca said the third procedure which was due to take place was supposed to have been completed by the time Lars had reached the age of 13 months, and that her son’s condition, if left untreated, could affect his ability to put on weight and lead to speech difficulties in the future.

She said her son had to learn to eat without the use of his top lip, and that feeding her Lars “exhausts him”.

She added: "It will also have great impact on his speech, because he won't be able to speak properly. He has no pallet. Your tongue's not hitting the roof of your mouth properly, so you're not making certain sounds and that sort of thing."

Rebecca also said there were beds available in Daisy Hill Hospital and Antrim Area Hospital, and called on the Trust to move patients to those locations in order to free up beds in Belfast.

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She said she would be prepared to travel anywhere to get her son the surgery he needs, but Belfast was the only place that could do it.

"In the long run it's going to cost the NHS a lot more because he's going to have to be referred to speech and language therapy, probably for a longer period of time.

"His recovery is going to have to be more intense. It's a long road ahead of him anyway, but it's just going to be that wee bit more now in his early years development."

The Belfast Trust has apologised after the incident, saying the hospital “continues to face significant pressure” because of demand due to emergency admissions and an “increase in severe respiratory type infections”.

A spokesperson added: “We make every effort to avoid having to cancel procedures and it is never a decision we take lightly.

“Belfast Trust would like to sincerely apologise to families impacted by surgery cancellations’ and we understand the anxiety this may cause, particularly when these decisions have to be made at short notice.”

The spokesperson said the pandemic had “fundamentally affected the work” hospitals have been doing for the last 18 months and that it would continue to do so.

“Every effort is being made to ensure a continuous high level of care can be delivered and whilst some difficult decisions have to be made our priority will remain to deliver safe, effective and compassionate care.”

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