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Too few stroke survivors receiving speech therapy in Northern Ireland

Friday 23rd February 2018
Not all stroke patients are being referred for vital speech and language therapy within the recommended 72 hours in Northern Ireland, potentially impacting their recovery. Image: shironosov via iStock
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The number of people receiving specialist speech and language therapy following a stroke has declined over the past ten years in Northern Ireland, new figures show.

Research carried out by scientists at Ulster University has raised concerns among members of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), as it found that some stroke survivors have not been offered any speech or language therapy as part of their recovery at all.

Among those who were referred for one-to-one therapy sessions with a specialist, one-third said they were not happy with the treatment they received.

However, almost three-quarters of stroke patients who were referred for group speech and language therapy sessions were satisfied with the support they were given, which suggests that more provision for these group sessions is required.

Indeed, nine out of ten stroke survivors report that consequent communication difficulties have impacted their lives significantly, highlighting the importance of healthcare providers always offering specialist support to patients, as it can help to improve their overall quality of life.

Alison McCullough, head of the Northern Ireland office of the RCSLT, commented: "This survey once again demonstrates how crucial speech and language therapy is in supporting the recovery and rehabilitation of stroke survivors who may be having difficulty communicating or swallowing.

"It is worrying to see that some stroke survivors are still not receiving the amount of therapy that they need, with some saying they are not receiving any provision at all."

With this in mind, the RCSLT is calling on healthcare commissioners to make the provision of specialist speech and language therapy more of a priority across Northern Ireland to ensure all those who require this type of care can access it.

What's more, the organisation wants a Communication Lifeline to be established in the country to make sure that all stroke patients have their speech and language needs assessed within three days of falling ill to allow them to begin accessing the best possible care for their individual situations as soon as possible.

Written by Martin Lambert

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