NHS England funds the evaluation of specialist surgery for more than 100 children a year with cerebral palsy

NHS England has today (17 July) announced it will commission specialist surgery for a number of children with cerebral palsy who have difficulty walking, which could improve their mobility and level of independence.

Around 120 children a year could benefit from a procedure called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) as part of NHS England’s innovative Commissioning through Evaluation (CtE) programme .

Taking place at five hospitals across the country, the programme aims to gather vital evidence on the effectiveness of the procedure. Children aged between three and 10 who suffer stiffness in their lower limbs, and meet the clinical criteria for treatment, can access SDR as part of the initiative.

Cerebral Palsy is a central nervous system condition that can cause spasticity, the clinical term for tight and stiff muscles, which can lead to difficulties in movement, balance and posture.

SDR is an extremely complex and specialist procedure which involves opening up the bones of the spine in the lower back to operate on the nerves, which could potentially help relieve spasticity. The NHS does not routinely fund SDR for the condition because, although it is a promising treatment, current evidence on its effectiveness in such cases is limited.

NHS England has selected the following five Trusts across England to provide SDR as part of its Commissioning through Evaluation initiative:

  • Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Great Ormond Street Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

SDR surgery will be carried out in clinically appropriate cases at these five centres. Children across England can be referred into one of these hospitals by their local specialists to be considered for treatment. The Trusts selected to provide the treatment gave evidence to an expert panel to demonstrate they had the expertise, skills and capacity to provide SDR, and that surgeons were already operating on at least 10 children a year.

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.”

NHS England will ensure all relevant specialists across the country are aware of the CtE programme so they can advise patients appropriately. Patients and their families who would like more information are encouraged to discuss options with their existing lead consultant.


  1. laurs says:

    This is great news to parents who have children with cp, this will change many children’s lives especially my sons hopefully it’s about time there was more help out there

  2. claire says:

    If this op is going to make a child walk or even giving the chance for a better life for child and parents the should be giving it away there is no cost to someones happyness or health i no it a big op but to be given the change to at least be a bit normal or a lifetime of misery it makes me sick to think a child in physical and emotional pain get pushed a side for someone wanting a boobjob cause there dipressed come first its been a miricle treatment in usa for years so who are we to say in the uk it not working as is should more like goverment isnt providing as many op as they should and who are they to say there is not enough evidance that its not working i heard hundreads of storys saying how grear it it not one saying how bad it just goes to show

  3. Jill says:

    If there is ‘limited evidence’ of the success, then why is this invasive surgery going to be carried out on vulnerable children?

  4. Helen Burchnall says:

    How will the necessary uplift in local physiotherapy servcies be commissioned as SDR without any additional and quite intensive physiotjherapy is less likely to be effectice and will impact the outcomes. Children often travel to have these proceedures and local services are not always equippped to cope with the additional work.. Whilst i welcome this it needs consideration.

  5. Sasha O'Regan says:

    This yes is a great break through for SDR and for some families of children with cerebral palsy however what is the exact number of children in the UK at this very point that suffer from cerebral palsy and could benefit from this procedure? I am sure 120 is no where near!! The criteria will be so tight that numerous families will still have to fund raise to go abroad because they are turned down yet will be accepted over seas.
    Every day more and more children are born with cerebral palsy and the parents of those children just like all the existing parents shall want this life changing operation! 120 carefully selected patients just is not enough!! You fund boob jobs on the NHS, gastric band surgery to help with those patients low confidence and improve the quality of life, yet you need to do research to see if an operation that will free a child from pain, potentially let them walk, run and jump independently and generally live a better quality of life is a good option to spend money on?!?! What about the transplant patients you spend money who have new livers or lungs and then decide to smoke or drink again?! What about the drug rehabs for addicts that cost yet they go away and use drugs again. These people make a choice to live that way, to waste the money of the NHS! Our children are innocent, they were born with a bleed on the brain which is heart breaking and nothing as parents can we ever do to fix them however you are playing god with a procedure that could dramatically improve the child’s quality of life!
    So I shall continue to fundraise for my son, I shall fight, I shall not give up until the money needed is raised and I shall take him to America where he will get the surgery and quickly, where there is a great communication despite the miles between us and where I feel confident my son will be best cared for.

  6. Laurence Smith says:

    This is fantastic news my grandson Coden Taylor is getting better at walking every day after having the operation

  7. Graham bushby says:

    The operation has been carried out for years in the USA on uk children who have had to raise funds through charities. These children see their GP and consultants in the UK before and after so all the information is already in the NHS domain. Yet another example of incompetence. GET ON AND DO THE OPERATION ITS BEEN DONE IN USA FOR OVER 20 YEARS

  8. Irwin Ford says:

    This is fantastic. Took FAR too long. Why?