The annual conference held by the Craniofacial Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2024 took place in Manchester this April. The conference is always a fantastic opportunity for new and experienced clinicians to meet and share information on a wide variety of subjects. CLEFT was very proud to see three members of the Trainee Section deliver presentations, and one member contribute to an academic poster. 

Will Raby-Smith with Shonnelly Novintan, Chair of the Trainee Section, in the conference venue

Presentations held:

  • Cleft Lip and Palate Educational Video Series for Students presented by Bhavika Khera (banner image)
  • Exploring Barriers to Cleft Training in the United Kingdom presented by Shonnelly Novintan
  • A Nationalised Technical 3D Photography Protocol for Cleft presented by Will Raby-Smith

Bhavika's Educational video series is aimed at trainees who have an interest in cleft lip and palate with the objective of making the speciality more accessible. All six episodes have been written, checked and illustrated and one episode has already been filmed. The project was presented at the CFSGBI conference and was very well received.

The importance of presentations at cleft conferences 

Cleft conferences are, at their core, scientific meetings, with the aim of providing education (termed CPD ‘continuing professional development’) for healthcare professionals involved in cleft care.  An important part of this is bringing people together to share ideas, enable networking and promote improvement in the provision of care. Encouragingly, patient and families are increasingly being integrated into cleft conferences in both chairing and presenting roles.  

Presentations at cleft conferences are either invited (termed ‘keynote’) or submitted and assessed by a panel of reviewers (termed ‘free papers’). Free paper submissions can either be presented in oral or poster format at conference.  

Keynote presentations are an opportunity to learn from an expert in the field about their work and experience. They are often very popular at conference as participants can learn about a particular area of cleft care that can impact the way in which they deliver care. Increasingly, conference organisers are including diverse keynote presentations into the conference programme, which aim to broaden horizons and tend to be very inspiring.  

Free papers (both oral and poster presentation) are a vital aspect of a healthcare professional career as they offer the opportunity for individuals and teams to share new information identified in audit or research projects. Presentations are an important element of disseminating new findings and are complimentary to other methods of dissemination such as journal publication. The act of presenting at conference can be very powerful as it offers the opportunity for the cleft community to critique (and therefor improve) the work and can lead to exciting collaboration with people who may be doing related work. Lastly, it is important for emerging cleft professional to present at these events to get recognised in the community and forge links which will be vital for their future career in cleft care.

Poster presentation by Research Steering Committee member Jenny Cropper along with Trainee Section member, Anna Sanders.

Written by Anna Sanders:

At Spires, a need was identified to create readily accessible documents to provide children and families with practical, peri-operative information and facilitate psychological coping and resilience, reducing anxiety, delays and cancellations of surgery. We wanted to create a series of age-appropriate surgery guides to inform and support children and their families in the peri-operative period.

Dr Laura Pick (Clinical Psychologist for Spires Cleft Centre in Salisbury) and Charlotte Mustoe (Speech and language therapist for Spires Cleft Centre in Salisbury) collaborated to create Patient Surgery Guides. These are aimed at children, with simplified language and a reading age between 8 - 10 years old.

Since their initial creation in 2022, I have helped Laura and Charlotte to revise the guides. Currently, we have three guides:  for the Alveolar Bone Graft, Buccinator Flap and generalised speech surgery. The guides outline the surgery process, people the patients may encounter during their hospital stay, and locations throughout the hospital.

Dr Pick wanted to investigate the effectiveness of the surgery guides from patient and parent perspectives, however, after going on maternity leave last summer, I took the lead in researching this proposal. Under the supervision of Dr Jenny Cropper (Lead Clinical Psychologist for Spires cleft Centre in Oxford), I devised an online questionnaire and distributed it to patients and their parents who received the guides at both Salisbury and Oxford.

I analysed the findings and found we received largely positive responses:

  • Agreement that the guides positively impacted surgery expectations and reduced distress/worry
  • Agreement that the guides positively impacted pre-operation and recovery expectations and were age appropriate
  • Agreement that the guides helped the patient feel more prepared/confident
  • Positive elements of the guides as voted by the parents: outline of surgery and recovery process, soft food/drink options, age-appropriate language and use of images

We now provide every young patient having ABG or speech surgery with a surgery guide when they receive their invite letter.

Jenny applied for sharing the findings at the CFSGBI conference and our abstract was approved to do so in a poster format. I designed the poster and myself and Jenny were able to present this. Since presenting, we have received considerable interest from other cleft centres to share our patient guides so they can adapt to their hospital/processes. 

And finally - I absolutely enjoyed it! With the absence of a qualified clinical psychologist in post at Salisbury currently, these guides have been crucial in providing patients with relevant information around their surgery. Since using these as treatment as usual, we have noticed a reduction in referrals to psychology for surgery preparation. It shows how impactful these guides have been in fully informing patients - it felt great to share their success.

Jenny Cropper (left) & Anna Sanders (right) pictured above in front of their poster presentation at the CFSGBI Conference