A new study has found the reorganisation of NHS services for children in the UK with cleft lip and palate has improved standards of care.
It has also led to a co-ordinated approach to national cleft research that has the potential to improve health and treatment worldwide.
The study by researchers at the University of Bristol, and published in the British Dental Journal , found the audit has informed the process of centralisation and a research strategy and infrastructure have been developed and embedded in the emerging clinical networks.
Around a thousand children are born in the UK every year with a cleft lip and/or palate that require treatment.† However, until recently, the service was spread across many centres and few clinicians were engaged in audit or research projects.
Over the past 15 years there has been significant reorganisation and centralisation of UK cleft services, with the reduction of the 57 centres operating on these children in 1998 down to 11 centres or managed clinical networks in 2011.
The researchers found not only are improvements in standards of care becoming evident, but important parallel developments initially in multidisciplinary audit, and latterly in research, have been initiated through this reconfiguration.†
Professor Jonathan Sandy , lead researcher and Head of the School of Oral and Dental Sciences , said: "Centralisation has not only raised the profile of this relatively small care group, but also enabled a UK wide co-ordinated approach to research into cleft lip and palate.† This process illustrates how NHS services can provide a platform for national research that has the potential to improve health worldwide."