'NHS Will Fund Boob Jobs But Not An Operation To Help My Daughter Walk For First Time'

A mum has pleaded with the NHS to fund a £30,000 operation that could help her daughter walk for the first time.

Natalie Rider said she couldn't understand how the NHS could fund gastric band and breast enlargement operations but was refusing to pay for surgery that could give her 10-year-old daughter Sophie Sharman the gift of mobility.

In a cruel twist, money had been allocated for Sophie's procedure, but this was withdrawn when budgets were slashed.

Now Natalie is challenging the NHS decision but if she is unsuccessful, she will try to raise the money to fund the procedure herself.

Sophie, from Bedworth, Warwickshire, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just eight weeks old and has never been able to walk unaided.

She was due to have a potentially life-changing procedure called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

The idea of the operation is to loosen the muscles to help patients walk independently.

But the hospital now says it will only fund the operation for those children who had completed all the preliminary tests and had a date set for the operation.

Sophie had just one more test to go but then she couldn't attend because her mum was rushed to hospital to have her gall bladder removed.

Had she made the appointment she would have had a date set for surgery and the NHS would not have withdrawn their offer of funding.

Natalie, 33, told her local paper: "I do blame myself in a way but I'm angry that Sophie is not being offered the surgery any more. It seems unfair because she missed her second test through a legitimate reason and we're being penalised.

"It's devastating. We were so close and because I fell ill and was unable to attend the final appointment, Sophie's chance to walk has been cruelly snatched away."

She said: "The NHS has said there's not enough proof the operation works, but if there's even a small chance it could help her walk we want to take it.

"Sophie's school friend had the operation and is now learning to walk, so we're hoping someone within the NHS will change their mind.

"We're in a horrible position at the moment and I'm trying to make as many people aware of what has happened."

The operation is a neuro-surgical technique used to treat spasticity (increased muscle tone) in the lower limbs. It involves opening the lower vertebrae to reveal the spinal cord which contains the neurones of the central nervous system.

These neurones (bundles of nerve fibres) channel messages between the brain and different areas of the body.

During the procedure, electrical stimulation is used to identify and sub-divide sensory and motor nerves.

This process continues until the specific nerves and nerve roots affecting the spastic muscles are identified and cut.

Natalie has set up a Facebook group and launched a petition calling for the NHS to fund the potentially life-changing operation.

James Hunter, clinical director for the musculo-skeletal and neurosciences directorate at Nottingham University Hospitals, said: "We have been in contact with parents of children referred to NUH but where SDR surgery had not been agreed to inform them we will not be proceeding with any further pre-operative tests in light of the changes to funding arrangements for this treatment.

"It would be unfair on these children and their families for us to continue a process which may not result in surgery.

"We've begun discussing treatment and funding options with each individual family."

To sign Natalie's petition click here.