Joe’s surgery’s now available on the NHS

Determined boy: Joe Knowles with parents Mike and Sue ahead of his selective dorsal rhizotomy operation, which was carried out in Leeds
Determined boy: Joe Knowles with parents Mike and Sue ahead of his selective dorsal rhizotomy operation, which was carried out in Leeds
Have your say

The father of a boy who had a £38,000 operation to help him walk, paid for by folk on the Fylde, today praised the NHS for making the surgery free.

But Mike Knowles added the health service wasn’t taking it far enough, as only five hospitals in the country can offer the selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).

Mike’s son Joe, four, is undergoing intensive physiotherapy after his SDR operation, which he needed to loosen the muscles in his legs which were too tight because of his cerebral palsy.

Because the operation could only be performed privately, Joe’s family had to fund-raise for the surgery through their charity campaign, Joe’s Wish to Walk, and was overwhelmed by the generosity of people who were prepared to dig deep for the youngster.

The NHS, last week, announced it is trialling the operation at five hospitals, including Leeds where Joe had his surgery, and Alder Hey, for children aged between three and 10 who meet the criteria.

Patients will be monitored after the surgery to check on the results.

The operation is set to benefit up to 120 children a year.

Mr Knowles, 37, of Bispham, said: “This is fantastic news. Any step forward is obviously a massive positive when it comes to helping young children walk.

“The annoying thing is that the NHS has decided that we need trials because the procedure is unproven, yet they have been carrying out this very procedure successfully for more than 25 years in the USA.”

Mr Knowles said his family was grateful Joe had already had his operation, as otherwise it would be facing a 
selection process to take part in the trial.

He added: “Time is of the essence with SDR. The longer you wait for this operation, the more likely it is that the child’s joints will start to deform and they’ll need further orthopaedic surgery.

“I just hope they get on with the selection process quickly now, so that these brave children are not kept waiting 
unnecessarily any longer.”

James Palmer, clinical director of specialised services at NHS England, said: “For children with cerebral palsy, being unable to walk easily can be extremely distressing and painful. Although current evidence is limited, SDR surgery shows real promise for some patients with mobility problems and that’s why we want to explore it further through our innovative evaluation programme.

“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.”

Joe had his operation at the beginning of June, and was allowed home at the end of last month.

Mr Knowles said he was working hard in his physio lessons to build up the muscles he has never used.

“He is now able to walk unaided for short distances, but he is determined that these short distances will become further and further,” he said.