NHS chiefs have announced the lifting of a controversial ban on surgery for youngsters with cerebral palsy after a hospital in Yorkshire was among five nationwide given the go-ahead to carry out the operations.
Leading consultant neurosurgeon John Goodden, of Leeds General Infirmary, will carry out the procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) following the decision.
The extremely complex operation helps improve the walking ability of some children with the condition.
Specialists open up the bones of the spine to operate on nerves which could relieve tight and stiff muscles that cause difficulties in movement, balance and posture.
Problems with NHS funding have forced patients’ families to raise tens of thousands of pounds to travel to the United States to have the operations privately.
NHS officials had claimed there was a lack of evidence supporting its routine use. But now NHS England has agreed that it will fund the surgery under a programme to evaluate its effectiveness. Around 120 children aged three to 10 could benefit each year.
Mr Goodden, who travelled to the US to study the technique, said: “This will help change the lives of many children in the North of England because families will have access to SDR without having to raise funds privately.
“We need to give these children every opportunity to fulfil their potential, and the freedom of walking and independent mobility is one of the most important gifts any child can have and has a huge impact on their ability to play, learn and enjoy their life more.
“It is a tremendous accolade for the Leeds team to receive this vote of confidence.”
James Palmer, of NHS England, said: “Not only will this enable a number of children to have potentially life-changing surgery, improving their mobility and independence, but this provides a real opportunity to gather the vital evidence we need on the effectiveness of the procedure, for the benefit of our patients.”