Thousands of people waiting for speech and language therapy in Northern Ireland
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) in Northern Ireland has called for urgent investment in speech and language therapy ahead of its conference this weekend.
The organisation is currently engaging in a workforce review with the Department of Health which will report that one in six speech and language therapy posts are vacant. This level of vacancy is contributing to an unacceptable number of people waiting for speech and language therapy in Northern Ireland.
The professional body has said that the ongoing review must address the need for increased resourcing and capacity building for staff to ensure that posts are filled and waiting lists can be tackled. With increased resources available to Northern Ireland, the profession demands that the needs of people with communication and swallowing difficulties are prioritised.
Thousands of children and adults with communication and or eating and drinking difficulties are waiting many months for assessment by a speech and language therapist and this is having a huge impact on their lives.
With children and young people, early intervention is crucial to improve life outcomes. For many people with debilitating conditions, access to speech and language therapy can be life-saving particularly for those with swallowing difficulties.
Head of the RCSLT office in NI, Alison McCullough MBE said:
“In advance of our conference, we are calling for urgent investment to tackle the large numbers of vacant speech and language therapy posts.
“The number of vacant posts that the ongoing workforce review has identified, is having a direct impact on the numbers of people waiting for speech and language therapy and the waiting time for assessment. This situation is extremely worrying.
“Speech and language therapy transforms lives. It can change life outcomes for children and young people in terms of education and employment, and it also gives people a voice, so that they can communicate their wishes and needs to those around them.
“The work being carried out by the Department of Health in this case is welcome, however we do need strategic policy commitments and direction that can only come from having local and accountable decision-making in Northern Ireland.