Babies suffering from tongue-tie are facing a lack of access to operations and one father is campaigning to help them after being asked to wait months for his infant son’s procedure.
Andy Johnson-Creek, a Berrylands councillor, and his wife Claire, of Church Lane, Chessington, had their son Felix at Kingston Hospital in January, after which they found out he had a tie-tongue. The hospital used to have staff able to perform the operation quickly, but now do not.
Affected babies have restricted movement of their tongue and jaw, which can cause difficulties in breastfeeding, colic and gas and speech impediments if left untreated. This can lead to a weaker bond between the mother and baby, and has been linked to post-natal depression.
The couple was referred to a GP and then given an appointment for the procedure more than two months later. They decided to get the operation done privately, at a cost of around £140 – much cheaper than the national average – but Mr Johnson-Creek recognised that not everyone can afford to do the same. Determined, he set up a petition that has gathered over 93,000 signatures, demanding that all NHS maternity units check for, and correct, ties at birth. Mr Johnson-Creek has lobbied Kingston Hospital to improve its service.
A spokesperson for Kingston Hospital said Gina Brockwell, director of Midwifery, met with the Ear, Nose and Throat Unit team on April 13 to discuss the possibility of the infant-feeding midwife working with the oral surgeons to assist in the tongue-tie separation service. She also confirmed the hospital has been in discussion with Kingston Care Commissioning Group regarding making a business case to a group of south west London hospitals (covering Richmond, Kingston, Wandsworth, Sutton, Merton and Croydon) for training the community midwife team to do the procedure without needing a clinical referral.
Felix Johnson-Creek’s situation was not an isolated one, as almost 10 per cent of babies in the UK are born with the condition.