About us

About us

Introducing the RCSLT

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) was established on 6 January 1945 to promote the art and science of speech and language therapy – the care for individuals with communication, swallowing, eating and drinking difficulties.

We are the professional body for speech and language therapists in the UK; providing leadership and setting professional standards.

We facilitate and promote research into the field of speech and language therapy, promote better education and training of speech and language therapists and provide information for our members and the public about speech and language therapy.

Find out more about the services that we provide, the campaign work we do with governments and partner organisations and our activities with educators, including:

History of the RCSLT

The College of Speech Therapists (CST) arose from the amalgamation of the Association of Speech Therapists and the British Society of Speech Therapists in 1944.

This new body aimed to:

  • promote the study of speech therapy in the UK
  • seek improvement and maintain a high standard of knowledge
  • unite all members of the profession

In 1945, CST fellows and licentiates were granted application to the Register of Medical Auxiliaries. By 1955 the College had withdrawn from the register and published its own member’s directory.

King George VI, who received speech and language therapy for his stammer, became the College’s first Royal Patron in 1948. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, continued this support after his death in 1952 and become the college’s patron in 1959.

In 1990, speech therapists changed their name and title to `speech and language therapists`.  The college was awarded the right to call itself the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in 1995.  HRH The Countess of Wessex became the current RCSLT patron in 2003 after the death of the Queen Mother in 2002.

You can also read a brief history of speech and language therapy in the UK and view a copy of the letter sent to King George VI by Lionel Logue.

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.

Governance structure

The Board of Trustees (the Board) is the highest governing body of the RCSLT. There are three subordinate governing committees: the Finance and Resources Committee (FRC), Professional Practice and Policy Committee (PPPC), and the Honours Committee.

In addition, Hub Forums, whose purpose is to engage with members in each UK country, advise the Board, but are not in themselves governing committees.

The trustees’ role (who are also the legal directors of the company) is primarily to ensure good governance of the organisation.

They also provide appropriate representation of the views of members at a strategic level on the Board and take account of the financial and business implications of any decisions they make.

The trustees conduct regular horizon scanning, and have a comprehensive three-year strategic plan containing high-level objectives which is kept under regular review at each Board meeting.

The role of the chief executive and staff members is to implement these objectives.

Memorandum and Articles, which are the prime governing document of the RCSLT, can be found here.

The Bylaws, which are subsidiary governing rules approved by the Board, can be found here.

Minutes of recent Annual General Meetings:

Recent Trustees Annual Reports:

RCSLT Strategic Plan

The RCSLT Strategic Plan is a road map which sets out where we are as a profession and where we want to be by 2021.

The RCSLT current strategic plan runs from 2018-21. It breaks into three main areas: the mission, the purpose and the focus areas for how we achieve the mission and vision.

Enabling better lives for people with communication and swallowing needs.

We are the professional body that promotes excellence in speech and language therapy.

Focus areas

  • Quality practice
  • Innovative organisation
  • Active influencing

Here are the focus areas in detail:

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

Board of trustees

The trustees’ role (who are also the legal directors of the company) is primarily to ensure good governance of the organisation.

They also provide appropriate representation of the views of members at a strategic level on the Board and take account of the financial and business implications of any decisions they make.

The trustees conduct regular horizon scanning, and have a comprehensive three-year strategic plan containing high-level objectives which is kept under regular review at each Board meeting.

The role of the chief executive and staff members is to implement these objectives.

The role of the Board is to:

  • Give strategic direction to the RCSLT
  • Set the organisation’s values and standards
  • Ensure compliance with its governing documents and relevant legislation
  • Ensure that the RCSLT pursues its objectives as defined in its governing document
  • Ensure that the RCSLT is a responsive and supportive organisation that promotes member and user engagement
  • Ensure that the RCSLT applies its resources exclusively in pursuance of its objects
  • Ensure that there is an appropriate scheme of delegation to its sub-committees and Senior Management Team
  • Be collectively responsible for adding value to the organisation
  • Provide active leadership
  • Safeguard the RCSLT’s assets
  • Promote diversity and equality

The committees report to the Board. The CEO and senior managers attend the board to provide input as necessary. The Board meets four times per year.

Board of trustees 2020-2021

Mary Heritage, chair

Mary graduated as a speech and language therapist in 1986, and later specialised in working with older people, especially people with dementia. Mary is an AHP (allied health professions) leader in the NHS in Derbyshire, primarily in community settings. She is the clinical lead for personalisation within the integrated care system. Mary is a qualified coach and mentor and is passionate about developing people to meet their potential. Mary has been actively engaged in the RCSLT throughout her career as a trustee (since 2015) and chaired the Professional Practice and Policy Committee (2015-18). Mary became RCSLT chair  in December 2020.

Twitter: @MaryHeritage 

Dr Sean Pert, deputy chair

Sean qualified as an SLT in 1995. Sean has worked in the NHS, charity sector and higher education. Sean won the Sternberg Award of Clinical Innovation on an unprecedented three occasions. Sean’s PhD investigated the identification of developmental language disorder (DLD) in bilingual children. As a gay man, Sean is keen to promote diversity and inclusivity in the profession. Sean 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 individuals.

Twitter: @seanpert 

Richard Cryer, honorary treasurer 

Richard began his career as a chartered accountant where, prior to retiring as director of finance and estates at the University of London at the end of 2012, he spent some 20 years working in the financial services sector in the City of London. Since his retirement, Richard holds roles as a non-executive director of an NHS trust, treasurer of Amnesty International UK and further education college governor, and treasurer of Action for Children and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. Richard is 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)

John Humphrey, Lay member (digital)

John has held the position of Group CEO for Kent County Council’s local authority trading companies since 2019, prior to that, John was the CEO of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and moved to Germany in 2008 to lead the turnaround of Admiralty Deutschland GmbH, a UKHO-owned software and data business, returning to the UKHO in 201 were he was appointed chief commercial officer and deputy CEO in 2014, subsequently, becoming CEO in 2015. Prior to 2007, John worked in technology businesses, most latterly in Canada as a vice president for Verint, a data analytics company.

Leasil Burrow – Lay member (HR/OD)

Lesley qualified as an SLT in 1988 from the University College London. Since then she has worked in various areas of London, rotating across schools, community clinics and acute care. After spending 9 years working at the Royal London Hospital in adult neuro, head and neck, ENT and MDT clinics in VFSS and oice, Lesley completed a Master’s degree at City University in 1995.

In 2012, she moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) NHS Foundation Trust in 1997, where she held the role of joint head of SLT services, retaining her clinical specialism in paediatric and adolescent voice disorders, receiving a Fellowship from the RCSLT in 2018 for her contribution to this field. Most recently Lesley joined the ‘Me First’ project which works with young people to co-produce and co-deliver communication skills training around tough topics.

Country representatives

Andrea Robinson – country representative for England – North

Pauline Downie – country representative for Scotland

Pauline is 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. Pauline has 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

Viki is currently working as both a clinical director for learning disability and neurodevelopmental community and inpatient services, as well as a speech and language professional advisor for a large mental health and learning disability trust in Sussex. Her service covers learning disability, mental health, forensic, criminal justice liaison and diversion, neurodevelopmental teams and Children and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS). Viki qualified in 1990 and worked clinically with people with a learning disability, specialising in people with complex mental health needs and behaviours which challenge. Viki continues to co-chair the Adult Learning Disability network for RCSLT and has worked with RCSLT on a number of projects and committees – including public health.

Rosalind Kyle, country representative for Northern Ireland

Rosalind graduated from Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh in 1984 with a degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy and a postgraduate diploma in Learning Disabilities in 1991. She is currently 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. Rosalind’s clinical speciality is in children and adults with learning disabilities – with specific interests in outcome measures, inclusive communication, dysphagia and dementia services. Rosalind is 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

Research and general trustees

Dr Rebecca Palmer, trustee for research 

Rebecca is a  reader in communication and stroke rehabilitation at the University of Sheffield. She qualified as a speech and language therapist from the University of Reading in 1999 and following her first clinical post in North Lincolnshire, she gained her PhD from the University of Sheffield in dysarthria assessment and treatment in 2005. Rebecca worked as a specialist SLT in stroke care in Sheffield from 2005 to 2010. She also worked as the rehabilitation trials coordinator for the Trent Stroke Research Network for six years, building research capacity in allied health professionals. Rebecca was awarded an NIHR/HEFCE senior clinical academic lectureship in 2012. She 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. Rebecca joined the RCSLT board as trustee for research and development in 2016.

Twitter: @rpalmerSLT

Ann Whitehorn, general trustee 

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

Twitter: @annwhitehorn1

Frances Johnstone, general rustee

Frances is the founder and director of Therapy Links UK C.I.C, a nonprofit social enterprise supporting children and young people with complex needs and learning disabilities. Originally from Glasgow, Frances trained at City University in London and has spent most of her career working within large NHS trusts in south London in both clinical specialist (including learning disability, dysphagia, augmentative and alternative communication) and management roles. Frances left the NHS to set up Therapy Links UK in 2018. She joins the RCSLT Board as a general trustee and also sits on the PPPC as a board representative.

Angela Shimada, general trustee

Angela has been a member of the RCSLT for 12 years and has a clinical background is in stroke with a special interest in instrumental dysphagia.  She is 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 

Janet covers a range of clinical areas in her work including children and adults with a learning disability and autism and leads a multidisciplinary team at varying levels. Currently, Janet 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 – remote working was embraced from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Finance and Resources Committee (FRC)

The FRC is responsible to the Board for overseeing all matters of finance, investments, contracting and tendering, risk management (FRC elements), HR, IT infrastructure, buildings and facilities, membership administration and Heritage work.

It has delegated powers up to approved limits to commit expenditure, invest assets and approve policies, and makes recommendations to the Board for other matters as set out in the Board’s scheme of delegation. It meets four times a year.

FRC members currently are:

  • Mrs Ann Whitehorn – Interim Honorary Treasurer / General Trustee / Chair, Finance and Resources Committee (FRC)
  • Helen Anderson
  • Amanda Smith
  • Carmel Brady
  • Lizzie Nash

FRC terms of reference

View the FRC terms of reference (PDF)

Professional Practice and Policy Committee (PPPC)

The PPPC considers and makes recommendations upon matters relating to professional practice, standards, policy and public affairs, and ensures that the perspective of members and service users in the four UK nations is taken into account, in the development and pursuit of the strategic aims and objectives of the RCSLT and in supporting the Board.

The PPPC debates current and future cross-cutting issues in sufficient depth to inform policy decisions by the Board.

In the process of consideration, discussion and debate, the PPPC consults with other RCSLT committees and groups and with the wider membership. It meets three times a year.

PPPC members are:

  • Lesley Cavalli – Trustee, Chair of PPPC
  • Frances Johnstone – Trustee
  • Emma Dominey-Hill
  • Annabelle Burns
  • Lisa Chess
  • Judy Clegg
  • Sarah James
  • Janet Harrison
  • Sylvia Taylor-Goh (Deputy Chair)
  • Dawn Leoni
  • Suzi Woodhouse
  • Lucie McAnespie
  • Jemma Haines
  • Vicky Slonims
  • Laura Mizzi

PPPC terms of reference

View the PPPC terms of reference (PDF)

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