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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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