What is speech and language therapy?
Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are trained to assess, diagnose and treat a range of communication impairments including difficulties with fluency, voice, speech, understanding and use of language, social communication and pragmatics.
Speech and language therapists work with children of all ages and adults.
The goal of SLT is to enable and support the individual to communicate to the best of their ability.
Some SLTs also assess and provide guidance for those individuals experiencing difficulties with eating, drinking and swallowing (dysphagia) to ensure safety and quality of life.
SLTs usually specialise in a particular age group or a set of conditions.
SLTs are allied health professionals.
How to access speech and language therapy
Access free SLT from the NHS
To access speech and language therapy for free, for you, your partner, friend or relative, or your child, contact your local national health service (NHS) speech and language therapy department. There is usually a separate SLT department for children and adults. The individual requiring SLT will need to be registered with a GP. You can sometimes make the referral yourself, otherwise the referral will need to be made by another health professional, or your GP. For children, their school or nursery may be able to make the referral; ask to speak to the schools´ SENCO.
Independent (private) speech and language therapy
Some people choose to go to an independent SLT instead of, or in addition to, accessing NHS SLT. Independent and NHS SLTs both have to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and they follow the same standards and ethics, however the main differences are time and flexibility. Sometimes people feel that they would benefit from more regular, intensive and individualised therapy than the NHS can provide, or they would like a second opinion. Some people require more flexibility with appointments than the NHS can provide. Others prefer an SLT to visit them at home which many private SLTs offer. Other reasons people may seek an independent SLT is to have more consistency with one particular therapist, or to be seen by an SLT with a particular specialism. You can find local independent SLTs by visiting the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP). You can then browse their specialisms and experience to find one that suits you.
Guidelines from The Department of Health and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists state that SLTs must collaborate in the patient´s best interests. NHS organisations should not withdraw NHS care simply because a patient chooses to buy additional private care; the NHS should continue to provide free of charge all care that the patient would have been entitled to had they not chosen to have additional private care.