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Petition Fund improved support for people with communication and swallowing needs

We want the Government to improve the lives of people of all ages with communication and swallowing needs by ensuring they are able to access the speech and language therapy that they and their families and carers need.

More details

The ability to communicate and eat and drink safely are basic human rights. Yet as shown in a recent report by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (Speech and language therapy during and beyond COVID-19) too many people have not been able to access the speech and language therapy they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, making their lives worse in a number of ways, including their mental health. We are calling on the Government to implement the report's recommendations.

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Government responded

This response was given on 22 July 2021

We know many people have had to wait to access NHS services during the pandemic. We are supporting the restoration of services, including speech and language therapy, for all of those who require it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for many families and carers, and we recognise the importance of meeting the needs of those with communication issues and eating and drinking challenges; and ensuring that recovery addresses these problems.

We welcome the recent report “Speech and language therapy during and beyond COVID-19” by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and its recommendations. The report provides 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.

We know that many people have had to wait longer to access NHS services, including people with communication and swallowing needs, and that is why we have provided an additional £1 billion funding to the NHS in 2021-22 to reduce waiting times for patients and to address health inequalities.

We have asked local trusts to draw up plans to recover services and activity that was lost due to COVID-19 during the first peak, and we are encouraging service providers to be innovative in their approaches to this to ensure patients get the healthcare and treatment they need as quickly and as effectively as possible.

We are also 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% on 2019.

On 23 November 2020 we published a Wellbeing and Mental Health Support Plan for COVID-19, setting out the steps we have taken to strengthen the support available for people who are struggling, including those with communication and swallowing needs. This was backed up by £500 million additional funding for mental health and for the NHS workforce at the November 2020 spending review to significantly expand mental health services.

We are also making sure that services like Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), counselling and mental health crisis lines are reasonably adjusted so that they are accessible: face to face and over the phone, as well as online. We have ensured that accessible information about how to access these services during the pandemic is available.

With respect to speech and language therapies specifically for children and young people, last summer NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) published guidance making clear that essential services provided in the community, including therapies, should be restarted for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) aged up to 25 years who have an Education Health and Care Plan in place or who are going through an assessment for one.

As part of our COVID-19 recovery planning we are working with the Department for Education and NHSE/I to look at how we can further improve the delivery of health services, including therapies.

Department of Health and Social Care

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