21 March 2023

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) has recently submitted evidence to the Health Select Committee inquiry into Prevention.

Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) affect people with a range of conditions including developmental language disorder (DLD), learning disabilities, autism, dementia and stroke.

The impact of these vulnerabilities includes health inequality, poor health literacy, social isolation and poor mental wellbeing. Ultimately, they lead to barriers in accessing and engaging with NHS and social care. For example, information regarding screening, health checks, immunisations such as the flu jab, may not be understood and ignored. 

We have called on the committee to:

  • Consider the needs of people with speech, language, and communication needs across the topics of mental health and disease prevention, and;
  • Include health inequalities as well as children and young people as additional topics in the inquiry.

Therefore, an underlying factor impacting prevention for many vulnerable members of society is misunderstanding the information given to them.

 The submission also highlights:

  • Communication is challenging for people with mental health problems, and SLCN acts as a barrier to accessing verbally delivered psychological programmes that rely on participants’ language and verbal reasoning capabilities. When communication difficulties are not identified, it can lead to inaccurate diagnoses of mental health problems, preventing timely access to appropriate interventions.
  • People with communication difficulties may have lower levels of health literacy. As a result, they may have less understanding of and insight into managing and maintaining their own health.
  • Information requires high levels of health literacy to understand and process fully. Complex information is difficult for those with poor health literacy to access. In one study, 61% of adults struggled to understand health information that included text and numbers.
  • Over 10% of children and young people have SLCN. In areas of social disadvantage, around 50% of children start school with delayed language and other identified SLCN.  If those issues are not addressed, they have long-term impacts seen in later years in the NHS and the community.
  • The rising cost of living now threatens to entrench and further deepen existing health inequalities, including those with SLCN. Therefore, this inquiry must consider the impact of health inequalities as part of this inquiry.

Read our submission in full.