19 November 2021

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have published an update to the UK guideline on managing the long-term effects of COVID-19.

The RCSLT has been providing extensive feedback to NICE, calling for speech and language therapy services to be part of the post-COVID core multidisciplinary team and for speech and language therapy needs to be identified.

When NICE published its guideline in December 2020 there was a lack of detail regarding multidisciplinary care, which is crucial to support people through their recovery. The updated guideline references speech and language therapy expertise in supporting people post-COVID.

There are, however, gaps relating to the identification of rehabilitation needs, with common symptoms such as voice, communication and swallowing difficulties being overlooked.

Inclusion of SLTs in dedicated post-COVID services is critical. Early findings from the RCSLT survey into post-COVID syndrome (report due to be published in January 2022) show that SLTs working in dedicated post-COVID services were receiving considerably more referrals for clients with post-COVID swallowing, voice and communication difficulties than SLTs not attached to a dedicated service.

This data exposes concerning gaps in identification and support for people with speech and language therapy needs post-COVID.

The RCSLT will continue to collect and share with NICE all research relating to speech and language therapy needs, so people with such needs can be assured that they will receive timely intervention for their communication, voice or swallowing needs.

Kamini Gadhok, CEO of the RCSLT said:

“We know that speech and language therapy needs impact on people’s mental health, ability to carry out daily tasks and ability to return to work and participate in society. (RCSLT report, May 2021)

National statistics show that the majority of people accessing post-COVID services are of working age. The longer-term impact of unmet speech and language therapy needs could be significant to both the economy and to people’s livelihoods.”

“The RCSLT firmly believes that any person with a communication, voice or swallowing difficulty has a right to access high quality speech and language therapy when and where they need it.”

“Post-COVID services must be appropriately resourced to intervene early to meet the needs of people requiring support over the coming months and years.”

Related content

RCSLT report on long COVID

Understanding the mid- to long-term speech and language therapy needs of people with long COVID

RCSLT survey on the impact of COVID-19 and post-COVID syndrome

Survey launched to explore the current demands on speech and language therapy services

COVID-19 hub

Resources and information relating to COVID-19