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Impact of the initial COVID-19 response in the UK on speech and language therapy services: a nationwide survey of practice

Katie Chadd (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK) (Speech and Language Therapy Division, School of Health and Social Care, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)
Sophie Chalmers (Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, Bolton, UK) (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK) (NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Kate Harrall (East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Ipswich, UK)
Amelia Heelan (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK) (Speech and Language Therapy, Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK)
Amit Kulkarni (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK)
Sarah Lambert (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK)
Kathryn Moyse (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK)
Gemma Clunie (Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK) (Imperial College London, London, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 26 March 2024

Issue publication date: 18 April 2024

80

Abstract

Purpose

Globally “non-urgent” health care services were ceased in response to the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, until 2021, when restrictions were lifted. In the UK, this included speech and language therapy services. The implications of COVID-19 restrictions have not been explored. This study aimed to examine the impact of the UK’s COVID-19 response on speech and language therapy services.

Design/methodology/approach

An online survey of the practice of speech and language therapists (SLTs) in the UK was undertaken. This explored SLTs’ perceptions of the demand for their services at a time when COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted, compared with before the onset of the pandemic. The analysis was completed using descriptive statistics and content analysis.

Findings

Respondents were mostly employed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) or the private sector. Many participants reported that demands on their service had increased compared with before the onset of the pandemic. The need to address the backlog of cases arising from shutdowns was the main reason for this. Contributing factors included staffing issues and redeployment. Service users were consequently waiting longer for NHS therapy. Private therapy providers reported increased demand, which they directly attributed to these NHS challenges.

Originality/value

This presents the only focused account of the impact of the national response to COVID-19 on speech and language therapy services in the UK. It has been identified that services continue to face significant challenges, which indicate a two-tier system is emerging. Healthcare system leaders must work with service managers and clinicians to create solutions and prevent the system from being overwhelmed.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all survey respondents for their time dedicated to completing the survey, and to members of the RCSLT COVID Advisory Board for their input into the initial version of a survey in which the one utilised here was adapted from.

Gemma Clunie is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship Programme CDRF-2017–03-028/Integrated Clinical Academic Programme for this research project.

Citation

Chadd, K., Chalmers, S., Harrall, K., Heelan, A., Kulkarni, A., Lambert, S., Moyse, K. and Clunie, G. (2024), "Impact of the initial COVID-19 response in the UK on speech and language therapy services: a nationwide survey of practice", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 264-285. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-11-2022-0337

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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