Key points

  • Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) is associated with a number of different conditions in adults and older people, and feeding and swallowing difficulties in neonates and infants
  • Dysphagia has potentially life-threatening consequences. It can result in choking, pneumonia, chest infections, dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss
  • Assessing and managing the case of dysphagia and training others is a core role of the speech and language therapist
  • Speech and language therapists also play an important role in alleviating pressure on hospitals by reducing exposure to risk of aspiration pneumonia, hospital mortalities and avoidable hospital admissions

Last updated: 2015


Here you will find tips and resources to:

  • Influence your local decision-makers and budget-holders
  • Raise awareness of the role of speech and language therapy in dysphagia

There are also resources to support you to:

  • Demonstrate the value of your service
  • Develop your leadership skills

Please contact us if you have any suggestions or feedback on these pages.

General resources

Our local influencing pages provide resources that will help you demonstrate to your local stakeholders how you:

Specific resources on dysphagia

Campaigning to Raise Awareness

The RCSLT’s Giving Voice pages provide tips for demonstrating how speech and language therapy makes a difference to individuals and the broader society across the UK.


Paediatric eating and swallowing

Edna’s story – the impact of speech and language therapy

Benefits of FEES (National tracheostomy safety project)

Giving Voice – Communication & Swallowing in the Hospital

Giving Voice – Communication & Swallowing in Mental Health

Giving Voice – Communication & Swallowing in the Community

Adult Speech and Language Therapy at Darent Valley Hospital, Kent, UK

For more videos visit the RCSLT YouTube channel.

Awareness days

Swallowing Awareness Day

Every year the RCSLT is hosting a Swallowing Awareness Day where we raise awareness about dysphagia.

Find out when the next one is and how you can get involved here.


Dysphagia often forms part of other health conditions for which a person is being treated, so it is difficult to be certain of the prevalence rate. However, research has found the following rates of prevalence and incidence:

  • Between 50-75% of nursing home residents (O’Loughlin & Shanley, 1998).
  • Between 50-60% of head and neck cancer survivors (Shune et al, 2012).
  • Between 40-78% of stroke survivors (Martino et al, 2005) – of those with initial dysphagia following stroke, 76% will remain with a moderate to severe dysphagia and 15% with profound dysphagia (Mann et al, 1999).
  • In 48% of patients undergoing cervical discectomy and fusion (Frempong-Boadu A, et al, 2002).
  • In 33% of the people with multiple sclerosis (Hartelius & Svensson 1994).
  • In 27% of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (McKinstry et al, 2009).
  • In 10% of acutely hospitalised older people (Luggers 1994).
  • In 5% of adults with a learning disability (Chadwick 2003), 5% of community-based individuals with learning disabilities and 36% of hospital-based individuals (Hickman and Jenner, 1997).


O’Loughlin G, Shanley C. (1998) Swallowing problems in the nursing home: a novel training response. Dysphagia, 13, 172-183.

Shune SEK, et al, (2012) Association between severity of dysphagia and survival in patients with head and neck cancer. Head and Neck, 34:6, 776-84.

Martino R, et al, (2005) Dysphagia after stroke: Incidence, diagnosis, and pulmonary complications. Stroke; 36:12, 2756-2763.

Mann G, Hankey G, Cameron D. (1999) Swallowing function after stroke prognosis and prognostic factors at six months. Stroke; 30, 744-748.

Frempong-Boadu A, et al, (2002) Swallowing and speech dysfunction in patients undergoing anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: A prospective, objective preoperative and postoperative assessment. Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques; 15:5, 362-368.

Hartelius L, Svensson P. (1994) Speech and swallowing symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis: a survey. Folia Phoniatrica; 46:1, 9-17.

McKinstry M, Tranter M, Sweeney J. (2009) Outcomes of dysphagia intervention in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Dysphagia, published online 18 July 2009.

Luggers K. (1994) Dysphagia in the elderly stroke patient. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing; 26, 2.

Chadwick DD, Jolliffe J, Goldbart J. (2003) Adherence to eating and drinking guidelines for adults with intellectual disabilities and dysphagia. American Journal on Mental Retardation; 108:3, 202-211.

Hickman J, Jenner L. (1997) ALD and dysphagia: issues and practice. Speech and Language Therapy in Practice, 8-11.

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