FIVE nurses and a doctor have returned from India having given ‘life-changing treatment’ to children with cleft lips and palate deformities.

The East Lancashire workers were part of a team of nearly 40 NHS staff who travelled to the Nagpur region and completed 133 surgical operations on villagers, who would otherwise have been left untreated.

It was the 13th mission organised by the Blackburn-based Northern Cleft Foundation, which was founded by former consultant anaesthetist Dr George Teturswamy, who lives in Mellor and also made the trip.

Christa Hammill, a theatre nurse at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, took two-weeks unpaid leave to take part in the project for the second year running.

The 35-year-old said: “It was a real success because the results were fantastic.

“These operations will genuinely change people’s lives as they will be able to eat properly and live healthily.

“They will also be treated better in their communities and be able to go to school, because there is a stigma attached to these conditions.

“I just felt so privileged to be there and it was a really humbling experience.”

The foundation was set up in 2001 and has so far helped more than 700 people. It is totally self funded and supported by Rotary International, along with fund-raisers throughout the UK.

It is currently developing a more comprehensive service, enlisting the expertise of ENT specialists and speech therapists to continue patients’ treatment and rehabilitation.

For more information see: or northerncleftfoundation.