Speech and Language Therapy – A profession in deep trouble

 Some recent comments from speech and language therapists:

  • I have become disillusioned by higher management who tell us how to streamline our department for more efficient output. We are made to sound like a factory, but a good therapist takes time to learn about individual families and to support their individual needs… in the long run this proves to be more beneficial in terms of time and therapy outcomes.
  • Decisions are being taken by people who understand nothing about clinical services and care even less.
  • In 30 years of NHS practice, I have never known a time when staff are so demoralised, frustrated, depressed and generally stressed out by the constant demands, not just to do with our caseload, but the systems which leave us feeling watched, monitored and totally unsupported at every turn.
  • Would I recommend speech and language therapy as a profession? Yes, but only if someone is not particularly ambitious.

I’m a speech and language therapist by profession. It’s a job I love.  Like a lot of speech and language therapists, I believe communication is a central part of what it means to be a human being. I work with children with disabilities, and it’s incredibly rewarding to help a child get their message across, and to support a parent or teacher in understanding what the child wants to communicate. For therapists working with adults, there is equal job satisfaction in giving support to someone who may have impaired communication following a stroke or head injury, for example.

Tragically, this is a profession that is now sliding into crisis. The ‘Agenda for Change’ pay package introduced in 2004/05 was very damaging for us, effectively reversing an important equal pay victory back in 2000. Since then, we’ve been badly hit by the cuts and redundancies sweeping across the NHS.

If Trusts axe doctors and nurses, the public is more likely to notice. If it’s speech and language therapists, they reckon on not many people noticing. Tragically, employers don’t seem too fussed by namby-pamby stuff about communication being a human right.

The document ‘Unite response’ is the Union’s response to the ‘Bercow Review’, written by me on behalf of our Speech and Language Therapy Occupational Advisory Committee. John Bercow is a (Tory) MP asked by the Government to review speech and language therapy provision.

This is a genuinely frightening document, and worth a read. Speech and language therapists report job loss and worse pay and conditions for staff – and a steady dumbing down of the services we provide. The agenda is one of worse clinical care for very vulnerable people.

It’s more clear than ever that we need a Union that’s prepared to stand up to employers who shove through cuts – and willing to challenge the Government that wants to carve up the NHS and hand out the more profitable pieces to big business. The people we work with deserve much better than that.


4 Responses to Speech and Language Therapy – A profession in deep trouble

  1. Hello:
    First off, stay the course brother! As a SLP of 18 years, 15 in the US public school system (where unions are still strong as a necessity) I have seen our profession routinely ignored, dissed and just about spit upon. I have been following a series of stories out of Ireland about the lack of therapists and have now found your concerns. I do have a basic question, who is the professional association in the UK and Ireland? It is ASHA in the US, is there a analogous organization over where you are? God bless all that you do and good luck.

  2. Judith Allen says:

    Your frustrations match mine. I just hope that one day communication will matter to those in power. We have to stay focused for the children we help on a daily basis so that we can into make adifference in their lives in order for them to become successful adults.
    Judith Allen

  3. joleese says:


    as someone undergoing speech therapy I can only assure you just how important your work is.

    The speech therapists I seen are currently unable to help my acquired neurogenic stammer improve, but that fact that there’s professionals trying to help makes the biggest difference.

    Please do whatever you can to ensure this provision continues, because as an adult who’s lost their normal speech it makes the world of difference.

    If it helps to cite examples of my experiences with speech therapy, you can find it all on my blog http://stammerheadshark.wordpress.com

    Take care and good luck with your fight!


  4. Barry Tebb says:

    All the serious therapies -speech,art,drama and psychotherapy itself have been marginalised,dumbed down or -in some places- have disappeared entirely.It is the malaise of what is left of our civilisation.Chaplin foresaw this in his film-“Modern Times”in the twenties.Conveyor belts may be fine for making car parts but the model does not fit the human psyche.The canon of thought from Plato to Freud has been casually set aside by the cash nexus,celeb culture and the rest.The caring professions can no longer care,the patients have been abandoned.Scull,an American Marxist sociologist, deals with this in his book “Decarceration”,which sets out how society pretends to include the disenfranchised but effectively abandons them to despair,death and the penal system.I have watched this process since Thatcher onwards and for ever downwards.My only hope is that people will become so bored by the meaningless of the non-culture the media subjects us to that some at least will start to read and think for themselves.

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