12 May 2021

In April, the RCSLT welcomed three speech and language therapy students from Birmingham City University to its virtual offices for a week long ‘health promotion’ placement.

The complications of ‘long COVID’

The students – Kathryn, Anesu and Hayley – were tasked with finding out about the speech, language, communication and swallowing needs in ‘long COVID’ (or post-COVID syndrome) and producing materials aimed at the general public to raise awareness of these possible complications.

Throughout the week, the students researched the literature, spoke with speech and language therapists (SLTs), interviewed a patient with experience of COVID-19 rehabilitation, and met with staff from across the organisation to pull together what is known about the long-term impacts of the virus on communication and swallowing. They faced a further challenge in triangulating this information and recreating it in an accessible manner, to communicate possible signs and symptoms to the public/patients and non-SLTs.

As Kathryn, Anesu and Hayley found, this is an important public health issue, as it is thought that long COVID, and the communication and swallowing effects it may involve, may well be present in people who were not severely ill or hospitalised with COVID-19. This means that people who are not on a COVID-19 rehabilitation pathway or ‘known’ to services as having had COVID-19, could be living with these symptoms unidentified or undiagnosed. As a result, people may not be forthcoming to services about these, and ‘put up with them’, even if it’s impacting their quality of life. They may also not be aware that speech and language therapists are ideally placed to support and rehabilitate these symptoms.

Raising awareness

To help raise awareness of these needs and the role of speech and language therapy, the students produced a series of materials during their placement, including:

  • An infographic on long COVID and the speech and language therapy needs associated with
  • An easy read booklet on signs and symptoms “Since you’ve been unwell with COVID-19…”
  • A draft letter for policy makers, urging for commissioning of speech and language therapy services to meet this need

The materials can be downloaded from Twitter. They will also be carried forward by the RCSLT, for approval by experts and available to download from the website in future.

The first of many

Hosting a student placement is a first for the RCSLT, and we’ve been delighted to work with students on such a fantastic initiative and are very proud of the hard work they’ve put in. We hope this is the first of many placements for the RCSLT!

Thank you to all the members who met and spoke with the students throughout this placement, the team at BCU and to Kathryn, Anesu and Hayley for their hard work.

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