The impact of Covid-19 on stammering services

A speech & language therapist providing therapy via video conferencing

NHS stammering therapy is now being provided remotely but services are very limited, with some therapists being redeployed to the frontline. Courses have been cancelled and postponed.

With the current restrictions on face-to-face interaction due to the coronavirus, we wanted to explore the impact this is having on stammering therapy services across the UK.

We sent a survey to speech & language therapists (SLTs) working in the NHS and the private sector across the UK, asking what’s happening right now with their roles. Here are the main findings*:

  • Although many SLTs (78%) are still working with people who stammer, a big proportion of NHS Trusts (43%) are providing only a very limited service which may not stretch to any contact for new referrals.
  • 10% of SLTs have been redeployed to frontline NHS roles on hospital wards and in the community, with some helping to distribute personal protection equipment (PPE). More expect to be redeployed over the coming days.
  • Those services who continue to provide therapy and assessments are doing so remotely over the telephone and/or via video conferencing (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, etc), with 32% of SLTs using video conferencing for the first time.
  • Nearly all NHS services are unable to support service users from outside of their area (with the exception of Airedale NHS's Teletherapy service, see below).

If you’re looking for support, contact your local NHS speech & language therapy department to find out what level of service they're currently able to offer. We can help you find contact details — call our helpline free on 0808 802 0002, weekdays 10am-12noon or 6pm-8pm, or see our Finding a NHS Therapist page.

What to do if your service is affected

If your NHS service is unable to provide therapy, here are some options:

  • Apply for NHS Teletherapy. Open to adults across the UK, this is therapy via video conferencing provided by Airedale NHS.
  • Private speech therapy — if you can afford it, many independent SLTs provide video or phone therapy. Some are offering reduced rates at present. Go to www.asltip.com for a directory of private SLTs. The Michael Palin Centre are providing an online service. You can also consider having just a single session of private speech therapy, for example to identify goals, discuss approaches or gain some inspiration.

For further help, see our Get Support section, which has information for parents, tips for using the telephone and more, and see our Connect section for a list of local stammering groups now meeting online, as well the different online support groups and forums.

What about stammering courses?

Courses that provide stammering therapy and breathing techniques including The McGuire Programme, The Starfish Project and The Fluency Trust, etc, have cancelled or postponed courses until June at the very least. Check their individual websites for updates — see our Therapy & Courses section for the list. The Stammering Self-empowerment Programme is still running its online-based course.

*Findings based on 114 responses to our surveymonkey questionnaire collected from 4th-24th April 2020, from NHS and private speech & language therapists across the UK.

(Image: Stephanie Burgess from Airedale NHS providing teletherapy)

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