Therapists using hit movie to speak out against cuts
SPEECH therapy campaigners are using the impact of Colin Firth's award-winning performance in the The King's Speech to urge MSPs to tackle cuts in services.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has submitted a petition to go before Holyrood later this month in an effort to prevent funding further reductions, but anticipates a budget cut of between ten and 20 per cent.
New figures released under freedom of information legislation have shown that spending on services by NHS Lothian has dropped in recent years. In 2009 533,000 was spent on acute adult services compared with 526,300 as of January 2010 and an estimated spend of 500,000 as of January 2011, a drop of just over six per cent overall.
For services for children and young people, the 2010 budget of 1.95 million is expected to be cut by up to five per cent, increasing waiting times and affecting the quality of treatment, campaigners say.
The royal college hopes the success of The King's Speech, which tells the story of King George VI's battle to overcome a stammer, will raise awareness of how vital speech therapy is, and how it can change lives.
Kim Hartley, Scotland officer for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said: "Speech and language therapy is a life-saving, health- protecting service needed by thousands.
"We are expecting a budget cut of between ten and 20 per cent for speech and language therapy and it is difficult to convey the impact that will have on services.
"Health boards financially shoot themselves in the foot by cutting speech and language services below a viable limit.
"Instead they should take the smarter approach of listening to speech and language therapy leaders' recommendations on how to maintain services at a safe and effective level and how SLTs can, given the opportunity, save them a lot more money than they spend on SLT."
Among those who benefit from speech and language therapy are young children, people recovering from neck and throat cancers, and stroke victims, who in many cases require language therapy to learn how to swallow food and drink again.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists says independent research has revealed that every 1 invested in enhanced speech and language therapy generates 6.43 through increased lifetime earnings.
Further breakdowns show that the estimated annual net benefit is 58m in Scotland.
Ms Hartley added: "To put it in perspective, when someone survives a stroke, you have the doctors, nurses and support staff there for them, but if you don't have someone to help them learn to speak and even swallow again when they return home, that diminishes their quality of life.
"They they become stressed, their partner becomes stressed and their health suffers. They may need mental health support and that put a further strain on the health system.
"That's how life-changing these services can be."
Alex McMahon, acting director of strategic planning and modernisation at NHS Lothian said services had been maintained despite the funding decrease. He said: "Through the redesign of services and using LEAN principles NHS Lothian continues to provide the same level of service."
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