A COUPLE were asked to pay almost £200 on an NHS ward for a surgical procedure to enable their baby son to feed properly.

Rob and Katie Barnes’ baby Oliver was born with severe tongue-tie, meaning he could not feed from the breast or bottle and needed syringe-feeding, which had to be done by a nurse.

The couple were given leaflets about the standard surgical procedure to free Oliver’s tongue. But they explained the baby would have to be taken to a private trust for the treatment.

Eventually, after a fee of £189 was paid, the procedure was carried out on a Royal Bolton Hospital ward by a practitioner, helped by a nurse.

But that was only after three days had passed, and the confusion about payment and treatment hadn’t been cleared up.

Mr Barnes, a teacher aged 32, said: “I felt helpless and stressed out. At one point a midwife said ‘he’s starving and that’s why he’s limp’.

“She sent me out in a blind panic to get some formula. I don’t know if she was being honest or mistaken. Then they were putting pressure on my wife to hand-express to use the syringes and we weren’t allowed to administer the milk so we were reliant on them.

“He couldn’t drink enough and we were concerned about his weight loss. The midwife said ‘don’t be surprised if he has lost weight’.

“We were going round in circles, we knew what the problem was, but they wouldn’t fix it.”

Oliver was born in Royal Bolton Hospital on Sunday, July 1 at around 3am. Complications meant he and Mrs Barnes remained in hospital until the Monday.

On the Monday, Mr Barnes said he repeatedly asked for help with Oliver’s tongue-tie but was only offered leaflets about going to a private trust to fix the problem.

Eventually the practitioner told Mr Barnes Oliver it could be done for a fee of £189.

Mr Barnes said: “A lady who works in hospital said she could do it in hospital and I asked who I was paying. She said ‘it’s the trust, not a private clinic’. She was the person doing it.”

Even then Oliver could not have the procedure done until the next day.

The family came in as outpatients on Tuesday, July 3 to have the simple procedure done on the same ward, M4, where Oliver was born.

Mr Barnes said: “It was an NHS member of staff. One nurse to hold Oliver and the other nurse had blunt scissors and cut the skin under his tongue, it was two minutes.”

Mr Barnes has approached Royal Bolton Hospital’s trust for a refund and has been told staff are looking into it.

Head of Midwifery at Bolton FT Valerie Clare, said: “Tongue-tie is a condition that affects four to 11 per cent of all newborn babies. In some cases, it can restrict the tongue’s movement, making it harder to breastfeed. In others, it causes no problems.

“Bolton FT has only recently been commissioned, from July 2, to provide an NHS tongue-tied service and will provide the new NHS clinic as of July 24, meaning babies with tongue-tie can be seen on the NHS and treated without charge at Royal Bolton Hospital.

“Previously, families of babies affected by the condition seen in Royal Bolton Hospital would be given the choice of waiting to be treated by another NHS provider or pay for the treatment themselves privately at Royal Bolton Hospital or through another private provider.

“We empathise with the family’s situation and understand their experience was not one they would have wanted.”