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An evaluation of speech and language therapy services for people with long COVID in the UK: a call for integrated care

Katie Chadd (Research and Outcomes, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, London, UK)
Sophie Chalmers (Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, Bolton, UK) (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Kate Harrall (East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Ipswich, 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 Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 30 November 2022

26

Abstract

Purpose

Long COVID is a complex and highly heterogeneous condition with a variable symptom profile, and calls have been made for an integrated care approach to be taken for its management. To date, no studies have explored speech and language therapy services or needs associated with long COVID. This service evaluation aimed to gauge the level of demand on speech and language therapy services for individuals with long COVID in the UK; their clinical needs, the organisational arrangements of services and the barriers and facilitators of delivering quality care.

Design/methodology/approach

A service evaluation was undertaken via distribution of an online survey to speech and language therapists (SLTs) receiving referrals for individuals with long COVID. Analysis was completed using descriptive statistics, with thematic analysis to evaluate qualitative data.

Findings

One hundred and eleven SLTs responded. Eighty-six percent were seeing individuals with long COVID in their “everyday” service, in uni- or multi-disciplinary teams, without any “dedicated” resource. Dysphagia and dysphonia were the most reported symptoms. Most respondents (66.7%) indicated the individuals they were seeing were of working age, and that an individuals' speech and language therapy needs were impacting their wellbeing. Perceived barriers to quality care included fragmented and non-integrated care pathways. Multi-disciplinary and integrated working was a key enabler.

Originality/value

This study provides novel insights into the current speech and language therapy needs of and care pathways for individuals with long COVID in the UK SLTs have unique expertise and are integral to supporting individuals with long COVID and should be a part of integrated care teams.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors 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.

Funding: 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., Moyse, K. and Clunie, G. (2022), "An evaluation of speech and language therapy services for people with long COVID in the UK: a call for integrated care", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICA-07-2022-0038

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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