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Therapies

Thousands back campaign to increase SLT provision

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The Government has responded to a petition signed by thousands of people calling for greater access to speech and language therapy (SLT), saying it is “supporting the restoration” of such vital support for those in need. 

More than 13,000 people have backed the campaign to increase funding to SLT so it can be made more available to people who depend on such therapy for support with eating, drinking and communication. 

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the lack of SLT resource impact significantly on people across the country, with the reality laid bare in a report from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. 

The #BuildBackBetterSLT research showed that over half of those living with neurological conditions who could not access speech and language therapy (SLT) during COVID-19 lockdown saw their mental health, social and home lives worsen as a result. 

Between March and June 2020, 41 per cent did not receive any SLT, with a further 32 per cent no longer having their therapy in-person. Almost half, at 48 per cent, received less therapy than prior to the pandemic. 

As a result of this, 40 per cent of people felt their communication or swallowing got worse during the period. 

The petition called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the report and to ensure those who had missed out for so long on much-needed resource could resume at the earliest opportunity. 

In a response to the petition, the Government said it “recognises the importance of meeting the needs of those with communication issues and eating and drinking challenges; and ensuring that recovery addresses these problems” and pointed to the additional £1 billion funding it is providing to the NHS in 2021-22 to reduce waiting times.

It hailed the RCSLT report as providing “important information that the wider NHS can consider and utilise, alongside other sources of evidence, to help improve support for people with communication and swallowing needs”.

In a statement, it added that it is undertaking the biggest nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professional recruitment drive in decades, which includes recruitment of speech and language therapists. In 2020 there were 620 acceptances to speech and language therapy programmes in England, an increase of 28 per cent on 2019, said the Government. 

RCSLT chief executive, Kamini Gadhok, urged people to continue to sign the petition and highlight the need for urgent action. 

“As our Build Back Better report has shown, too many people have been unable to access the speech and language therapy they need throughout the pandemic and during lockdown. Inevitably, this has impacted negatively on many different areas of their lives, including their mental health,” she said. 

“We want people to get the support they need to enable them to live their lives as fully as possible, which is why we’re urging the public to add their signatures to the petition and encourage their friends, family and colleagues to follow suit. 

“Together, we can make a difference to people with communication and swallowing needs.”

To sign the petition, visit here 

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