For over 40 years, I have been involved in operating on babies, children and adults who have been born with cleft lip and/or palate.

Although I have now retired from the National Health Service, I continue to operate both in the UK and in many countries abroad.

As a plastic surgeon, I have been involved in many aspects of surgical reconstruction. However, I have increasingly focused on the challenge of trying to improve results in surgery for clefts.

I have been aware of the lack of good quality data on techniques and outcomes and have tried to make some contributions in these areas. Travelling to many countries has convinced me of the need to try to help in improving care for children born with clefts in resource-poor countries. Most efforts by charities rely on flying in western teams for short visits or paying local surgeons to carry out the operations in private hospitals. Neither of these approaches builds for the future. If these NGOs disappeared, they would have had a negative impact in the long-term.

In 2007, with Maddie Holmes (grandmother of a patient) and inspired by John Kettleborough (an ex-patient) we set up the charity CLEFT, with the aim of funding research to be carried out by the North Thames Cleft Team in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the St Andrew’s Centre, Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, and also to support cleft lip and palate teams in resource-poor countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Egypt and Kurdistan. We have achieved a lot but there is much more to be done – helping to bridge the gaps in knowledge about the causes and treatment of clefts and trying to bridge the gaps between treatment in countries like the UK and countries like Bangladesh.

In addition to being the current chairman of CLEFT, I am currently trying to split my time between looking after my own patients, regularly visiting the centres that we support overseas, and also keeping in touch with  my own family of five children and currently thirteen grandchildren.  It would be better if there were more hours in the day and more days in the year!