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 create better lives for all people with communication and swallowing needs.

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

Our vision? To be a beacon for those seeking to work with people with communication and swallowing needs, at the same time as actively supporting the profession to grow, and to become more inclusive and representative.

Our values?  Commitment, innovation and ambition; active accountability; strong and empathetic leadership; active engagement; curiosity and open mindedness.

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 please see our:

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).

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

Meanwhile, in a palace far away, King George VI was receiving speech and language therapy for his stammer, and he was so impressed with the work of SLT Lionel Logue, he decided to become the CST’s first Royal Patron in 1948.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, continued this support after his death in 1952 and become CST’s patron in 1959.

Then, in 1990s, when speech therapists added language to their titles, CST was awarded the right to add ‘royal’ to its title, and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) was born, and the rest is, well… history.

In 2003, HRH The Countess of Wessex became the RCSLT’s royal patron, continuing the long history of speech therapy and the royal family.

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

How we work: our governance and leadership

The RCSLT governance is made up of a Board of Trustees and three committees. These help govern the way we engage with our members across the UK and support our service users. Here’s a brief overview.

Finances and Resources Committee (FRC): This team is responsible for all things finance, including investments, contracting and tendering, risk management, membership administration, heritage work, and more. They meet four times a year.

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.

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 Board of Trustees: The role of our Trustees is to keep the RCSLT on the right track. They meet four times a year to discuss, decide and review our three-year strategic plan and make sure our staff are working in line with the views of our members.

Meet our Board of Trustees (2020-2021)

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 the clinical lead for personalisation within the integrated care system. I am also is 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

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 works 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 effeteness 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 continues her clinical work in videofluoroscopy. I have worked in speech and language therapy for 28 years and has 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 has 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 represents 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 has 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 is 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.

RCSLT Strategic Plan (2018–2022)

The RCSLT Strategic Plan is a road map that sets out where we are as a profession and where we want to be by 2022. It comprises three main areas:

Our focus areas: quality practice, innovative organisation and active influencing

Here are the focus areas in detail

1. Quality practice

Research and Innovation

  • Shape research capacity, capability and culture within the profession
  • Promote the funding of key areas of SLT research
  • Promote understanding and use of and evidence-based approach to practice

Workforce and leadership

  • Become an intelligence resource regarding workforce trends
  • Pre-registration and post-registration training is responsive to the changing environment
  • Support members throughout their careers to develop their leadership, knowledge, evidence based practice and skills

Professional guidance

  • Support members to develop, critically evaluate, promote and improve their services, including through recording outcomes
  • Understand the implications of new technology and supporting members to use it

Service users

  • Continue to co-produce with and advocate alongside service users and their representative organisations

2. Innovative organisation

Leadership within

  • Ensure that the governance and finances of the RCSLT are sound and in accordance with the law and best practice
  • RCSLT is a diverse and progressive employer

Member led

  • Enhance our communication, engagement and support to members, including resilience


  • Work with members to develop digital services and functionality that meet their needs and supports member engagement

3. Active influencing

Creating profile and opportunity

  • Be proactive in raising our profile across all mediums
  • Influence at a regional, national and international level

Developing evidence-based policy and resources

  • Gather evidence, engage service users and develop resources to underpin our influencing
  • Respond effectively to policy developments across Governments

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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