Parents forced into payday loans to fund treatment of baby girl’s deformed head after NHS refused to help


Parents forced into payday loans to fund treatment of baby girl’s deformed head after NHS refused to help

  • Molly Askham had “flat head syndrome” and her skull looked misshapen
  • She needed a specially designed £ 2,000 helmet to reshape her head
  • The NHS would not fund the treatment because it deemed it ‘cosmetic’
  • Parents borrowed £ 400 in high interest loans to pay for private treatment

When Molly Askham was only ten weeks old, her parents noticed that one side of her head was much flatter than the other.

Doctors diagnosed her with a severe deformity of the skull called plagiocephaly or ‘flat head syndrome’ – but told Michelle and Peter Askham that treatment was not available on the NHS.

Eager to improve their granddaughter, Mr. and Mrs. Askham were forced to take out a payday loan to finance private care.

Molly Askham (pictured with her mother, Michelle) developed ‘flat head syndrome’ as a newborn baby, which means her skull has become deformed

Plagiocephaly affects the soft skulls of newborns and, in Molly’s case, was so extreme that an ear seemed to have moved to the back of her head.

Doctors told Ms Askham, 27, and her 32-year-old husband the problem should cure itself – but instead it got worse.

Molly's condition, which began to appear when she was ten weeks old, was so extreme that an ear seemed to have moved to the back of her head.

Molly’s condition was so extreme that an ear seemed to have moved to the back of her head

The couple contacted a private clinic that uses a helmet specially designed to reshape the head, but the treatment cost £ 2,000 and a deposit of £ 500 was required before they could begin.

With no savings to fall back on, the couple searched the Internet for lenders.

They took out a high interest £ 200 ‘payday loan’ and another expensive £ 200 ‘home loan’.

The family organized fundraisers to get the rest of the money, and eventually Molly received her helmet.

It works by keeping the normal side of the head in position while providing “space” for the flattened side to expand.

After wearing her 23 hours a day for four months, her head has returned to normal shape – but her parents are still in debt.

Ms Askham, whose husband has a low-paying job in a welding company, said they regularly pay the home lender off and had to borrow money from her parents to pay off the other cash loan, which had already doubled.

She needed a specially designed £ 2,000 helmet to reshape her head, but the NHS would not pay for the treatment as they saw it as 'cosmetic' and doctors believed it would correct itself

She needed a specially designed £ 2,000 helmet to reshape her head, but the NHS would not pay for the treatment as they saw it as ‘cosmetic’ and doctors believed it would correct itself

Molly askham
Molly askham

Molly’s worried parents had to turn to payday and home loans to fund her treatment and after she wore the helmet for just 17 weeks, she had recovered enough that she no longer needed them.

What is the syndrome

The mother-of-two said she was ‘shocked and angry’ to find that treatment for such a severe form of plagiocephaly was not available on the NHS because it was considered ‘cosmetic’ – even though surgery breast augmentation and tattoo removals were sometimes provided.

Ms Askham, from Leeds, said: ‘Funding should be available for a distortion as serious as this.

“It’s horrible to think your child is deformed, but it is.

“Her ear was not where it was supposed to be and her nose was moving as well.”

These headsets work and have worked great for Molly.

“But it was very scary and it seemed like his skin was moving. It was a little girl and one ear was in a strange place.

Molly’s head was normal when she was born five weeks preterm last August at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, weighing 4 pounds 14 ounces.

She spent two periods in the hospital during the first weeks of her life because she developed intolerance to cow’s milk and had meningitis.

By the time she was ten weeks old, it was “very noticeable” that one side of Molly’s head had become flat.

The local NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds Primary Care Trust was recently dissolved, but in an earlier statement on the case it said: “The NHS does not generally fund the use of cranial reshaping orthoses for babies with the condition. of plagiocephaly.

“This is essentially a cosmetic problem and in the majority of cases the problem will resolve itself spontaneously with advice on the positioning of the baby.”

Molly's head was normal when she was born five weeks preterm last August at St James's Hospital in Leeds, weighing 4lb 14oz

Molly’s head was normal when she was born five weeks preterm last August at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, weighing 4lb 14oz

She spent her first few weeks coming and going in the hospital because she developed meningitis, but she is now a healthy baby.  His parents continue to repay the loans

She spent her first few weeks coming and going in the hospital because she developed meningitis, but she is now a healthy baby. His parents continue to repay the loans



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