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Cleft Lip and Palate Service (Northern Ireland)

What is a cleft lip and / or palate?
What the service does
Who provides the service
How to access the service
The journey ahead
Harry’s journey (video)
Location and contact details
Leaflets to download
Useful links

What is a cleft lip and / or palate?

A cleft lip and / or palate is a gap in the upper lip, which may extend through the gum (alveolus) into the roof of the mouth (cleft palate). Clefts occur early in pregnancy when the head and neck are forming.

Around 40 babies are born in Northern Ireland each year with a cleft lip and / or palate.

For a comprehensive overview of clefts, including diagnosis, symptoms and treatment, please see our page on what you need to know about clefts.

You can also find a range of information on cleft lip and palate on the NI Direct website.

Children born with a cleft lip and / or palate may need surgery depending on the nature of their condition. The first repairs generally take place within a few months of birth. Further repairs are made as your child grows and their teeth come in.

Surgery aims to:

  • improve the appearance of the face
  • resolve any feeding and speech problems that may occur

Some adults who have had treatment to repair a cleft lip or palate may be self-conscious or unhappy about their appearance. They may also have some functional problems. GPs may refer such cases back to our service for assessment. Where necessary, further surgery may be considered.

What the service does

Our team provides specialist care, treatment and support for babies, children and adults across Northern Ireland who were born with a cleft lip or palate. We also provide support for the families and carers of patients.

We are one of 12 specialist cleft centres in the UK. Our aim is to provide the best outcomes for our patients in terms of physical function, psychological preparation and appearance.

We also care for patients with a submucous cleft palate and non-cleft velopharyngeal dysfunction (people with speech difficulties associated with palate function).

Read some of our testimonials here.

Who provides the service

Our team is made up of the following clinical specialists:

  • speech and language therapists
  • cleft nurse specialists
  • clinical psychologists
  • cleft surgeon
  • paediatric dentists
  • cleft coordinators
  • orthodontists
  • audiologists
  • ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultants
  • clinical geneticists

How to access the service

Please see our page on referrals to the cleft lip and palate service.

The journey ahead

The care pathways page shows the journey we will be sharing with you and your child over the years ahead.

If you would like a copy, follow the link on this patient journey page or ask any member of the team for a paper version.

It is very important to recognise that every child will follow their own unique journey. All dates on the timeline are estimates. At any stage, please feel free to ask one of the cleft team about your progress on this journey.

Following any clinic appointments, we will send a letter to your child’s GP with a summary of the consultation. If the clinic appointment was with a number of different professionals, known as a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) clinic, we will also send a summary letter to you.

Please tell us at any time if more than one person has ‘parental responsibility’. In these circumstances, copies of the letter will be sent to the relevant separate addresses. Sometimes, these can be difficult situations, so we must insist that such requests are made in writing.

Harry’s journey


Location and contact details

We are located in the Children’s Hospital.

  • Pamela Larmour, Cleft Coordinator: 073 8543 0707
  • Paula McCord, Assistant Cleft Coordinator: 028 9504 5952
  • Emma Macartney, Clinical Nurse Specialist: 078 6017 9418
  • Paediatric Dental Department: 028 9615 6909
  • Speech and Language Therapy Department: 028 9615 0320

Useful links

Leaflets to download

Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA)

The Craniofacial Anomalies Network (CRANE)

CRANE maintains a national register of UK cases of cleft lip and / or palate. A member of our team will ask you or your child if they can register this information with CRANE. You have the option of agreeing or deciding against it.

The information CRANE collects is used to:

  • support research into the causes and treatment of cleft lip and / or palate
  • report on the quality of care for people with a cleft lip and / or palate
  • record the number of children born each year with a cleft lip and / or palate
  • increase our understanding of cleft lip and / or palate
  • promote high standards of clinical care

The Cleft Collective

The Cleft Collective investigates:

  • the biological and environmental causes of cleft lip and / or palate
  • the best treatments for cleft lip and / or palate
  • the impact of being born with a cleft lip and / or palate on the individual and their family

‘Moving up’ leaflet for parents/carers of children born with a cleft who are moving up to secondary school.

Beth’s Cleft Lip and Palate (blog)


Locations where this service is delivered