About us

About us

Hello, we’re the RCSLT

We’re the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), the professional body for speech and language therapists in the UK.

Our mission: To enable better lives for people with communication and swallowing needs.

How do we do it? By facilitating and promoting research, producing guidance, holding events and influencing government. We promote better education and training for speech and language therapists, and provide information to our members and the public about speech and language therapy.

Our vision: A society that is inclusive of all with communication and swallowing needs.

Our values: Commitment, innovation and ambition; active accountability; strong and empathetic leadership; active engagement; Respectful, collegiate yet challenging.

Diversity and inclusion: We are committed to equality, inclusion and creating better lives for all. To learn more about our journey to becoming an anti-racist profession, see:

Our history

In 1944, the Association of Speech Therapists and the British Society of Speech Therapists teamed up to create a brand-new professional body, the College of Speech Therapists (CST).

The CST aimed to promote the study of speech therapy in the UK and unite all members of the profession.

King George VI is known for having received speech and language therapy for his stammer. He was so impressed with the work of his speech and language therapist, Lionel Logue, that in 1948 he became the CST’s first Royal Patron. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, took up the role after his death, becoming Patron in 1959.

In the 1990s, when speech therapists added ‘language’ to their titles and the CST was awarded the right to add ‘royal’ to its title, we officially became the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).

In 2003, HRH The Countess of Wessex took over as the RCSLT’s Royal Patron, continuing the historic relationship between speech and language therapy and the royal family.

Read more about the history of the RCSLT and the profession in a series of articles by Jois Stansfield, emeritus professor at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Our Patron and President

Nick Hewer, President

Nick Hewer, former presenter of iconic television programme Countdown, holds the role of RCSLT President. He is passionate about raising awareness of communication and swallowing difficulties, and helps to promote the message of the RCSLT to the general public. His ongoing work with the RCSLT has earned him an honorary degree from Plymouth Marjon University.

Nick is also a published author, and he has previously worked as a public relations consultant and as Lord Sugar’s right-hand-man on The Apprentice. He is also patron for several charities, including Fairtrade, Hope and Homes for Children, Pancreatic Cancer Action and Street Child Sierra Leone.

HRH The Countess of Wessex, Patron

Our Royal Patron is Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO, who is following in the footsteps of past generations of the royal family.

Part of her role is attending official events to keep up with the latest in the profession, and celebrating and thanking SLTs for their crucial work at awards ceremonies and celebrations.

HRH The Countess of Wessex is the patron of over 70 charities and organisations, championing an array of causes. These include supporting the agriculture industry, preventing avoidable blindness and putting a stop to gender-based violence.

How we work: our governance and leadership

The Board of Trustees: The Trustees are collectively responsible to the members for developing a five year vision for the organisation, defining goals, setting targets and monitoring performance against those targets. As Trustees they share corporate responsibility for all decisions of the Board including setting the organisation’s values and standards, ensuring compliance with its legal obligations and ensuring that its obligations to members are understood and met. They meet formally four times a year. Read the latest on the Board of Trustees.

Finances and Resources Committee (FRC): This committee is responsible for all things relating to finance and resources including investments, contracts, HR, IT infrastructure, data security, health and safety, property, membership records and RCSLT Heritage. They meet four times a year. Meet our FRC committee.

Professional Practice and Policy Committee (PPPC): This committee specialises in policy and public affairs, as well as professional practice and standards. They also make sure that our members and service users are considered when it comes to the RCSLT’s strategic aims, objectives and general governance. They meet three times a year. Meet our PPPC committee.

Honours Committee: The Honours Committee is responsible for evaluating and agreeing on the nominations for awards, including RCSLT Fellowships, Honorary Fellowships and the Sternberg Award for Clinical Innovation. They also make recommendations to the Board of Trustees when it comes to supporting a nomination for national honours. See the RCSLT Honours roll call 1945-2019 (PDF)

The Nominations Committee: This committee is responsible for the strategic oversight of the RCSLT’s trustee and committee member selection and induction processes. They meet at least once a year but more often when required. Meet our Nominations Committee.

Selection Panel: The Selection Panel is a group of members with an interest in or experience of recruitment. The panel will take part in interviewing prospective Trustee and Committee members. They will then make their recommendations to the Nominations Committee on the most appropriate candidates for the positions available.

July board meeting for The Royal College Of Speech And Language Therapists at The Marriott Hotel And Country Club, Derby.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD GRANGE / UNP (United National Photographers).

Meet the Board of Trustees

Mary Heritage, chair

I graduated as a speech and language therapist in 1986, and later specialised in working with older people, especially people with dementia. As an AHP (allied health professions) leader in the NHS in Derbyshire, I primarily worked in community settings. Currently, I am a senior lecturer and programme lead in speech and language therapy at the University of Lincoln. I am also a qualified coach and mentor and am very passionate about developing people to meet their potential. I’ve been actively engaged in the RCSLT throughout my career, including as a trustee since 2015 and chairing the Professional Practice and Policy Committee (2015-18). I became RCSLT chair in December 2020.

Twitter: @MaryHeritage
Email: board@rcslt.org

Dr Sean Pert, deputy chair

In 1995, I qualified as an SLT. Since then, I have worked in the NHS, charity sector and higher education, and was awarded the Sternberg Award for Clinical Innovation on three occasions. My PhD investigated the identification of developmental language disorder (DLD) in bilingual children. As a gay man, I am keen to promote diversity and inclusivity in the profession. I currently work as a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Manchester and as a consultant SLT for the Indigo Gender Service in Greater Manchester, providing voice and communication intervention for trans and gender diverse people.
Twitter: @seanpert

Richard Cryer, honorary treasurer

I began my career as a chartered accountant where, before retiring as director of finance and estates at the University of London at the end of 2012, I spent 20 years working in the financial services sector in the City of London. Since my retirement, I have held roles as a non-executive director of an NHS trust, treasurer of Amnesty International UK, further education college governor, and treasurer of Action for Children and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. I am also a member of audit and finance committees at the Biochemical Society, Council for Licensed Conveyancers and Institution of Civil Engineers.

Lesley Cavalli, general trustee and chair, Professional Practice and Policy Committee (PPPC)

I qualified as an SLT in 1988 from the University College London. Since then, I have worked in various areas of London, rotating across schools, community clinics and acute care. I spent several years working at the Royal London Hospital in adult neuro, head and neck, ear, nose and throat (ENT) and multidisciplinary team (MDT) clinics in videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS) and voice, and completed my master’s degree at City University in 1995. I moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) NHS Foundation Trust in 1997, where I held the role of joint head of SLT services since 2012. I have retained clinical specialism in paediatric and adolescent voice disorders and received a Fellowship from the RCSLT in 2018. Most recently, I joined the ‘Me First’ project which works with young people to co-produce and co-deliver communication skills training around tough topics.

John Humphrey – lay member (digital)

I have held the position of Group CEO for Kent County Council’s local authority trading companies since 2019. In 2008, I moved to Germany to lead the turnaround of Admiralty Deutschland GmbH, a UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) owned software and data services business. I returned to the UKHO in 2012 as interim commercial director, was appointed chief commercial officer and deputy chief executive in 2014, before becoming chief executive in 2015. Previously, I worked in technology businesses, including in Canada as a vice president for Verint, a data analytics company.

Leasil Burrow – lay member (HR/OD)

I am an associate fellow at the University of Oxford where I direct and teach leadership on various executive programmes. I have a degree in Law from the University of Central Lancashire, an MSc in Major Programmes from the University of Oxford, and have studied behavioural economics and corporate governance at Harvard Business School and neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I am also the founder and executive director of an organisational effectiveness and executive coaching company, specialising in transformational leadership and personal branding.

Country representatives

Andrea Robinson – country representative for England (North)

I qualified as an SLT in 2007 and worked for the NHS in Derbyshire as a paediatric speech and language therapist. I was a Giving Voice ambassador and raised awareness of the profession in Derbyshire and beyond, winning the Advancing Healthcare Award in 2012 for putting speech and language therapy ‘in the limelight’. In 2014, I moved to Dawn House School and worked with children across the age ranges, becoming the school’s head of therapy in April 2018. I completed a Level 5 course in Leadership and Management of Social Care and Children’s Services.

Pauline Downie – country representative for Scotland

I am the head of the speech and language therapy service in NHS Lanarkshire, the chair of the Scottish SLT Managers and Leaders network and continue my clinical work in videofluoroscopy. I have worked in speech and language therapy for 28 years and have seen countless examples of the value SLTs bring to teams and the difference they make to people with communication and swallowing needs.

Twitter: @paulinedownie

Viki Baker – country representative for England (South)

I am currently working as both a clinical director for learning disability and neurodevelopmental community and inpatient services, as well as a speech and language professional adviser for a large mental health and learning disability trust in Sussex. My service covers learning disability, mental health, forensic, criminal justice liaison and diversion, neurodevelopmental teams and children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). I qualified in 1990 and worked clinically with people with a learning disability, specialising in people with complex mental health needs and behaviours which challenge, and continue to co-chair the Adult Learning Disability network for RCSLT and have worked with RCSLT on several projects and committees, including public health.

Rosalind Kyle – country representative for Northern Ireland

I graduated from Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh with a degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy in 1984 and a postgraduate diploma in Learning Disabilities in 1991. Currently, I am the assistant manager for speech and language therapy services at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for adults with learning disabilities, acute paediatrics, and community child development services. My clinical speciality is in children and adults with learning disabilities, with specific interests in outcome measures, inclusive communication, dysphagia and dementia services. I am also a member of the Northern Ireland RCSLT hub, the adults with learning disabilities (ALD) CEN, the assistant manager networks in NI for children with disability, adults with learning disability and post-grad education, and represent the RCSLT at the Allied Health Professions Federation NI.

Lisa Chess – country representative for Wales

I was appointed as head of speech and language therapy at Swansea Bay University Health Board in August 2017. I have extensive experience at national, regional and local levels, including a four-year term on the RCSLT Professional Policy and Practice Committee, ongoing membership on the All Wales Speech and Language Therapy Advisory Forum and as an active member of the Primary Care and Community Services Board. I played an active role in transforming paediatric speech and language therapy services, and my team won the Advancing Health Care Award in 2019. Swansea Bay has also led the way in the implementation of RCSLT’s ROOT tool and therapy outcome measures are central to the department’s strategy. Before moving into a leadership role I practised for 30 years, specialising in adults with acquired neurological disorders, working in a wide range of clinical areas including critical care, stroke, progressive neurology, traumatic brain injury and rehabilitation.

Research and general trustees

Dr Rebecca Palmer – trustee for research

I am currently a reader in communication and stroke rehabilitation at the University of Sheffield.  I qualified as a speech and language therapist from the University of Reading in 1999 and, following my first clinical post in North Lincolnshire, I gained my PhD from the University of Sheffield in dysarthria assessment and treatment in 2005. I worked as a specialist SLT in stroke care in Sheffield from 2005 to 2010, and also worked as the rehabilitation trials coordinator for the Trent Stroke Research Network for six years, building research capacity in allied health professionals. I was awarded an NIHR/HEFCE senior clinical academic lectureship in 2012. I was chief investigator of the NIHR HTA funded randomised controlled trial, Big CACTUS, evaluating self-managed computerised aphasia therapy post-stroke in 21 UK speech therapy departments.
Twitter: @rpalmerSLT

Ann Whitehorn – general trustee

I qualified as an SLT in 1973 with distinction and started work at Guy’s Hospital, having been a final year student there. I worked with a mixed adult and paediatric caseload until 1981 when, having gradually developed a specialisation in voice/head and neck, I was appointed to a clinical specialist role. In 1994, I became head of speech and language therapy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, continuing this role until my retirement. As a senior leader, I acted as director of therapies and represented the directorate on various trust-wide committees in the field of cancer and supportive care. In 2009, I co-led a successful tender for a community head and neck multidisciplinary team in partnership with Lewisham Primary Care Trust. In 2004, I was appointed trust management side lead for job evaluation, and led a national working group for RCSLT, reviewing and revising national speech and language therapy job profiles. Since retirement, I have continued in this role.

Twitter: @annwhitehorn1

Frances Johnstone – general trustee

I am the founder and director of Therapy Links UK CIC, a non-profit social enterprise supporting children and young people with complex needs and learning disabilities. Originally from Glasgow, I trained at City, University of London and have spent most of my career working within large NHS trusts in south London in both clinical specialist (including learning disability, dysphagia, and augmentative and alternative communication) and management roles. I left the NHS to set up Therapy Links UK in 2018. In addition to my role on the Board, I also sit on the Professional Policy and Practice Committee as a board representative.

Angela Shimada – general trustee

I have a clinical background in stroke with a special interest in instrumental dysphagia. I am currently working in the role of deputy director of AHPs and integrated community care at Lincolnshire Community Health Services.

Twitter: @shimada_angela

Janet Chambers – general trustee

I cover a range of clinical areas in my work including children and adults with a learning disability and autism. I also lead a multidisciplinary team at varying levels. Currently, I am working as an intermediary and mentor in a virtual team, working in criminal and family courts with vulnerable adults, including those with mental health needs.

Our values

Our values are at the centre of our work and guide all of the RCSLT’s actions.

  1. Commitment, innovation and ambition: to deliver on the RCSLT mission, purpose and vision.
  2. Active accountability: to ensure continual innovation, improvement and delivery to members and to the profession.
  3. Strong and empathetic leadership: to actively pursue inclusiveness, diversity and fairness across the profession, within the membership body and within our organisation.
  4. Active engagement: to promote transparency, integrity, open communications and to maintain trust and confidence.
  5. Respectful, collegiate yet challenging: to be curious and open-minded about the views of others and how change can benefit the RCSLT and the profession.

Our core behaviours

We’ve developed 16 core behaviours which describe the actions and attitudes of our Board members and form part of our work to be more inclusive and diverse.

The behaviours go further than our values – they are the actions which help to make the values a reality.

Our Board members:

  1. Understand and are committed to values of the RCSLT Board.
  2. Understand and are committed to the mission, purpose, vision and objectives of the RCSLT.
  3. Work collaboratively and establish good working relationships.
  4. Are motivated and enthusiastic and able to convey this to others.
  5. Take responsibility for actions agreed.
  6. Are able to actively support the diversity and inclusion agenda in a concrete manner.
  7. Use judgement and common sense in making informed decisions.
  8. Act with transparency and integrity and manages personal conflicts of interest.
  9. Are able to identify risks and threats to the RCSLT and help seek out a consensus on appropriate action.
  10. Question and challenge when necessary to further Board understanding and develop problem solving.
  11. Demonstrate consistent attendance at Board meetings.
  12. Are always prepared for meetings; read Board papers in advance and are prepared to engage and ask questions.
  13. Are able to work effectively with other Board members of varying experience, backgrounds and perspectives.
  14. Contribute actively and facilitates discussion to develop ideas.
  15. Communicate clearly and openly in order to secure understanding.
  16. Undertake learning and development to improve trustee skills and is aware of own strengths and weaknesses.

Our strategic vision

The RCSLT Strategic Vision: 2022-2027 is our roadmap for the next five years. It outlines our main aspirations and areas of strategic focus.

Our aspirations

  • Inclusive communication for all
  • A more diverse, inclusive and representative profession, with equitable access to culturally appropriate provision for service users
  • Explicit recognition of health inequalities, social disadvantage and the profession’s role in working to counter these
  • Championing the value and impact of speech and language therapy
  • Co-production with service users, their carers and families
  • Better funding and resources for the profession, with a focus on staff health and wellbeing
  • Innovation and excellence in research and clinical practice, and a stronger evidence base, including for telehealth and digital inclusion
  • Properly funded senior and specialist roles, clear career pathways, and strong multidisciplinary team working
  • Being an outstanding organisation that empowers its members to lead

Our main areas of strategic focus

  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Co-production with service user partners
  • Funding and recovery following the pandemic
  • Innovation and excellence in research and clinical practice
  • Developing the speech and language therapy workforce
  • Championing the value and impact of speech and language therapy
  • Empowering members to lead the profession
  • Organisational excellence

Download the Strategic Vision

We have also produced a communication accessible easy read version with the support of RCSLT members and service users.

This accessible format presents our vision in a way that is easy to understand. It defines key words and uses pictures to support the text.

You can download the easy read format in PDF or Word format.

It may be helpful to have support when reading this document.

Trustees Annual Report 2020–2021

The Trustees Annual Report for the year 2020–2021 outlines the RCSLT’s activities over the last financial year. It also includes a full independent auditor’s report and financial statements, and is available for all RCSLT members to view.


Legal structure

The Charity is known as the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (the RCSLT); registered number 273724. It is a registered charity in Scotland, registered number SC041191.

The RCSLT is also a company limited by guarantee, registered number 518344, and therefore has no share capital. In the event of its winding up, the members’ liability is limited to £1 per member. The Memorandum and Articles, which were last amended at an EGM on 5 December 2019, govern the RCSLT, supplemented by its Bylaws.

It has a trading arm, known as CSLT Trading Ltd; registered number 0268820.


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