History of the Craniofacial Society of Great Britain and Ireland

In 1969, two Consultant Orthodontists, Arnold Huddart (based in Stourbridge in the West Midlands) and Denis Glass (East Grinstead) attended the first International Congress hosted by the American Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Association (ACPA) which was in Houston, Texas.  At this meeting, Denis turned to Arnold and said “we need to have one of these sort of things – organise it!”  Arnold dutifully did as he was told and in 1970 organised a meeting, concerned primarily with the treatment of cleft lip and palate, which took place at Wordsley Hospital in the West Midlands.  Yearly meetings involving orthodontists and maxillofacial and plastic surgeons followed, but in the late 70's the important role of speech therapists was recognised and they were also invited to attend.

Meetings continued on this basis and a successful international meeting presided over by Arnold Huddart was held in Birmingham in July 1983. Then, in April 1985, a meeting was held in Wolverhampton to discuss the future of the Society. At this meeting there was considerable discussion about the name but those present voted for ‘The Craniofacial Society of Great Britain A Society for the Study of Cleft Lip and Palate and other Craniofacial Anomalies.’  (‘and Ireland’ was added in 1999). The issue of the Society’s name was discussed again at the AGM in 1997 but the vote resulted in no change.

The logo of the Society depicts the tree of knowledge with the motto Dies Diem Docet (The Day Teaches the Day) i.e. education is never complete.


A Formal Society and Membership

In 1985 when the Society was formally established with a constitution, the main categories of membership were orthodontics, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery and speech & language therapy with a few members from other specialities, for example paediatric surgery, neurosurgery, research and morphoanalysis.  A rotation of posts to ensure representation from the four main specialities was established on the CFS Council.  In 1990 it was agreed that members from the other speciality groups could also be nominated and stand for office and ‘Other’ became incorporated into the rotation.  Today, as can be seen on the website, the ‘Other’ group includes many more professionals involved in the cleft palate / craniofacial field.  Following CSAG’s implementation and the centralisation of services, there was a decrease in the number of surgeons and an increase in nurses and clinical psychologists.  The nurses were originally part of ‘Other’ but their numbers reached a critical mass and they have had specific representation on Council since 2003.  In 2011 (with effect from 2015/2016) it was agreed that the categories of Maxillofacial Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon would be combined to the single category of Cleft Surgeon for the purposes of Council rotations.

A close association was maintained with CLAPA. In 1995, it was agreed that the National Secretary of CLAPA could be co-opted as a member of the Society and given financial assistance to attend meetings at the discretion of the President.


The Secretariat

A pivotal role in the development of the Society was played by Kathleen Randle, P.A. to Arnold Huddart. She had taken on the management and organisation of the Society from its inception and when the Society was formalised in 1985 became Membership Secretary, a role she continued to fulfil until 2002. Kath had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Society, did most of the background administrative work and was an invaluable support to successive presidents and honorary secretaries. She supported the Society from the days of communication by letters requiring stamps through to the digital age.

Following Kath’s retirement, her loss was felt by a greater burden being placed on the Honorary Secretary and other Officers. Finally in 2006 office facilities and a part time secretariat hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons of England was established.

 

Specific / Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

The Speech & Language Therapy (SLT) SIG was set up in 1987 and held one of its meetings each year immediately prior to the CFS Annual Scientific Meeting.  The venue was close but usually different due to expense. From 1990 the CFS provided some financial assistance and from 1995 began to provide the lecture hall and audiovisual facilities for SLT meetings.  Subsequently other speciality groups developed SIGs and SIG meetings now form a key additional day alongside the annual CFSGBI Conference with 8 SIG groups meeting in Birmingham in 2013.  This represents a considerable expense and logistical nightmare for the President but the Society recognises the importance of and valuable contribution of these groups. In addition the CFSGBI helps SIGs to secure guest speakers at their meetings.

 

Specialities working together

The CFSGBI has always been about more than an annual conference. The different specialities have met together in subcommittees to work on audit and research. The Audit Group produced a minimum data set for cleft audit.  More recently the Society has funded audit and research workshops.

CARE (the Craniofacial Society Anomalies Register) was instigated in 1989 as an initiative to record the births of children with craniofacial anomalies.  Once again a multi disciplinary committee, funded by CFSGBI, was set up to oversee CARE.  In subsequent years paper submissions to the register were replaced by electronic data and CARE became CRANE which is now located in the Clinical Effectiveness Unit at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 

Over the years, when funds allowed, the Society has given grants for research and provided funding to assist members in attending international and its own conferences. The CFSGBI has also funded training initiatives for SLTs and Cleft Nurse Specialists.  In June 1999, the CFSGBI became a founder member of the The Scar Free Foundation (formally The Healing Foundation) with representation on its Board of Trustees and also its Research Council.  This has ultimately led to the Cleft Collective, the world’s largest cleft lip and palate research programme in addition to other major initiatives which also relate to cleft and craniofacial anomalies. 

The role of President has become much more than organising the annual conference.  In 1996, the Society was asked to provide written evidence to the Clinical Standards Advisory Group (CSAG).  The submission highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the CFSGBI and its role in acting as the forum for the presentation and evaluation of British research and audit in this field. Subsequently the Society came to be represented in various NHS bodies and to be consulted for advice at government level and by the media.

From its inception as an informal group which ran annual meetings, the Craniofacial Society of Great Britain and Ireland has grown in numbers and stature.  It has developed to become the national professional organisation for cleft health care professionals promoting the highest standards of care.

 

Jane Russell & Gill Stuffins

January 2014