A clinic helping those with facial and physical disfigurements launched in Leeds today has been hailed as a “world first”.
People with disfigurements will not have to suffer in silence anymore as the new clinic is opening on Street Lane, Roundhay, to offer psychological support and social skills training to those who previously feel neglected by the NHS.
Dr Lesley Sunderland, GP partner at the surgery, said: “This service bridges the gap between what can be done cosmetically and psychologically.
“For years the NHS has only been able to offer cosmetic support, but now we are able to deal with the psychological side of coping with a disfigurement.”
This is the first time people with disfigurements can access this kind of help though their GP rather than going to the hospital or via mental health services, which often have lengthy waiting lists.
Carly Bailey,33, from Sheffield has suffered with facial paralysis for 19 years.
The mother-of-two said: “I’ve had 19 operations and for 18 years I have had no help psychologically. I was passed from surgeon to surgeon with the main focus always been on fixing my face. At no point was I offered help to fix the inner me.
“Cruel comments from children and strangers eventually stopped me from leaving the house.
“It is thanks to Changing Faces I found the confidence to start living my life again and plucked up the courage to tell someone I had known for years how I felt about them, and amazingly he felt the same. We are now married.
“I only wish that there was a service like this when I was 14. Thankfully for all children and young people affected, now there is.”
The clinic will also offer a skin camouflage service but its main aim is to deal with the emotional side of coping with a disfigurement.
It is estimated that around one in every hundred people have a physical disfigurement.
The charity was formed in 1992 by Dr James Partridge who himself was severely burned in a car fire at the age of 18.
He said: “This is a campaign for face equality.
“We want to challenge public negativity, stigmas and low expectations around people who have these conditions. I was shocked by people’s fear of me. My parents, family and I were in darkness, but I slowly started to learn how to be a citizen again and not a patient. It is difficult, but it is do-able and you can come out the other end feeling confident, and that is what we are about.”
The clinic aims to help approximately 100 people over the next eighteen months.