Let’s make the #Bercow10 recommendations a reality

I CAN launched the Bercow: Ten Years On report in partnership with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. RCSLT CEO, Kamini Gadhok MBE, sets out The College’s pledges going forward, in light of the findings of the report.

Ten years ago I was honoured to be part of the group that produced the original Bercow Review of services for children with speech, language and communication needs. Ten years on, I had no hesitation in partnering the RCSLT with I CAN to assess what’s changed in that time – both for the better and for the worse.

What we found about speech and language therapy

We found good and bad news for many parts of the system – in this blog I want to focus just on speech and language therapy. Here is what we heard:

  • There are examples of speech and language therapists providing strong local leadership, and in those areas children and young people with speech, language and communication needs are better supported.
  • However, there are fewer speech and language therapists working at a strategic level within the NHS with the ability to influence local decision makers
  • Only 15% of people said that speech and language therapy was available in their area as required
  • More schools are commissioning their own speech and language therapy
  • Services that are rationing support in ways that are not based on the evidence about what works – and instead are restricting services on the basis of arbitrary factors such as children’s age
  • Examples of speech and language therapists going the extra mile to raise awareness about speech, language and communication
  • The majority of NHS speech and language therapy services said their commissioner measured the performance of their service on outputs – such as the number of children seen – compared with around a third who were measured on the impact of their service
  • More than two thirds of services said they had seen a reduction in the number of specialist speech and language therapy roles within their service in the past 10 years.
  • Almost all of the respondents to a survey of NHS children’s services reported that they discharge children and young people who miss appointments.
  • Speech and language therapists as part of a team that changes lives for children in care

 What the RCSLT will do

The Bercow: Ten Years On contains recommendations for government, agencies, and national and local leaders – but we will play our part too. As well as working with I CAN to influence nationally and locally, we will lead a response from the profession:

  • working with system leaders in the commissioning, development and delivery of best practice pathways for children with a range of speech, language and communication needs across all settings
  • driving improvements, including the development of self- evaluation tools at an individual and service level, as well as promoting the ongoing development of research and clinical evaluation skills
  • using the findings and recommendations of the review to inform the development of resources and guidance as part of the RCSLT strategy for children’s speech and language therapy services
  • supporting effective communication and partnership working with parents and carers as part of our strategy for education and training of the SLT workforce
  • working with service user groups to support the development of a symbol for communication access and its underpinning standards, akin to the already established disability access symbols.

I look forward to working with many of you in the months and years ahead to make the recommendations of the review a reality.