Speech and language therapists (SALTs) provide life-changing treatment, support and care for children and adults who have difficulties with communication, eating, drinking and swallowing.
They help people who, for physical or psychological reasons, have problems speaking and communicating. Patients range from children whose speech is slow to develop, to older people whose ability to speak has been impaired by illness or injury. It also includes treatment for those who have difficulty with eating or swallowing.
SALTs help children with a variety of conditions including:
- mild, moderate or severe learning difficulties
- language delay
- specific difficulties in producing sounds
- hearing impairment
- cleft lip and palate
- voice disorders
- selective mutism
- developmental language disorder.
SALTs help adults with:
- communication or eating and swallowing problems following neurological impairments and degenerative conditions, including stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s disease and dementia
- voice problems
- mental health issues
- learning difficulties
- physical disabilities
- hearing impairment
While many of these services are provided by the NHS, their resources are far from limitless and the Covid pandemic has put additional load on the system which has resulted in longer waiting times for people wishing to access services according to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) in this report.
A March 2021 “Building Back Better” survey by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists reported that 90% of service users who were 18 and under received less therapy after the Covid Lockdown was introduced in March 2020. For adults, the figure was only slightly better at 86%.
When the original lockdown ended in June 2020, 73% of respondents were not receiving any in-person Speech and Language Therapy provision.
Adults who responded to the survey said:
- Speech and language therapy improves the lives of people with communication and eating and drinking difficulties. It also improves the lives of their family members and carers. Respondents were clear about this.
- 76% said speech and language therapy makes their life better.
- 29% said it makes it easier to make carers aware of their needs
When children were asked about their expectations for the future, this is how they responded:
- 79% of respondents were concerned about being able to access speech and language therapy in the future.
- They were concerned that a lack of access to speech and language therapy would make their lives worse.
- 82% highlighted the impact on education. 74% highlighted the impact on social life and friendships. 60% highlighted the impact on mental health.
Long Covid is also adding to the case load of Speech Therapists. In a study by the University of Cambridge, 60% of those suffering with Long Covid reported that they had difficulty in finding the right word. https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/memory-long-COVID