Cleft lip and palate

What is it?

A Cleft lip or palate is formed when parts of a baby’s face did not join together properly during development in the womb. Some children can have a cleft lip (a split in their upper lip), a cleft palate (a split in the roof of the mouth) or both.

In some cases, a child may have a submucous cleft palate. This is where the split or cleft occurs only in the soft palate at the back of the mouth. As this is covered by the lining of the mouth it may not be noticed at birth, often being diagnosed only when symptoms develop (such as difficulties feeding/swallowing or producing certain speech sounds).


In Oxfordshire our community Speech and Language team works with the Children’s Cleft Palate and Craniofacial service which is based in the John Radcliffe hospital, also known as the Spires Cleft Centre.

The Spires Speech and Language Therapy Service is a regional service providing specialist information, assessment and therapy for children and young people with cleft lip and palate and/or velopharyngeal dysfunction, from birth into adulthood.

This is delivered within the context of the multi-disciplinary Cleft Team and in partnership with families, settings and local Speech and Language Therapy services across the region.

The Oxford Craniofacial Unit is one of four designated supra-regional services for the provision of craniofacial surgery in the UK. The Unit’s Speech and Language Therapy Service provides specialist information, assessment and advice for children and young people with craniofacial conditions, from birth into adulthood.

Non-urgent advice: Learn more

Page last reviewed: 29 August, 2021