13 May 2021

Between 24 February and 10 March 2021, we conducted a survey of RCSLT members, to gather their insights into working with people with Long COVID over the previous year (February 2020 to March 2021) – the results of which are shared in our new report ‘Long COVID and speech and language therapy: Understanding the mid- to long-term speech and language therapy needs and the impact on services’, published today.

The report – Long COVID and speech and language therapy (PDF) – furthers our understanding of the mid- to long-term speech and language therapy needs of people with Long COVID, the impact these difficulties have on people’s lives and the essential role that speech and language therapy plays in supporting them.

Key points

  • All speech and language therapy respondents received referrals of people who had Long COVID with ongoing speech and language therapy needs.
  • Concerningly, around a quarter of speech and language therapy respondents reported that the majority of people they had seen had more than one speech and language therapy need, indicating a higher level of complexity.
  • There was significant variation in the number of people referred to speech and language therapy, which could indicate a lack of awareness of speech and language therapy needs after COVID-19, resulting in large numbers of unmet need.
  • Speech and language therapy needs may be secondary to other Long COVID presentations, such as breathlessness, however addressing these needs will become more imperative especially as people try to return to work.
  • The report details the impact of these needs on the person. Key findings included a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, an impact on the person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and activities and an impact on the ability to return to work.

Recommendations for action

The RCSLT firmly believes that any person with a communication or swallowing difficulty has a right to access high quality speech and language therapy when and where they need it. Any person with such needs after COVID-19 must receive timely, individual, person-centred rehabilitation, which will support and maximise their mental health and wellbeing, participation in society, and ability to return to work.

To achieve this, in the report the RCSLT recommends that 11 actions need to be taken to at a national level, system level and workforce level, and for greater public awareness.

Read the report

The future

As the pandemic continues and the number of individuals with Long COVID grows, the speech and language therapy profession will see increasing numbers of people requiring support in the community for speech and language therapy needs.

Action must be taken now to deliver these recommendations so all people requiring speech and language therapy can access high quality therapy, when and where they need it, to have their needs met.

If you would like to support our national influencing work, please email info@rcslt.org

Related content

COVID-19 hub

Resources and information relating to COVID-19

Building back better

Speech and language therapy services after COVID-19

The impact of the pandemic on service provision

Understanding the ongoing impact of COVID-19