5 April 2023

In January 2023 we asked managers of speech and language therapy services to tell us about vacancy rates and recruitment issues both in the NHS and the independent sector.

The results paint a shocking picture with the average vacancy rate reaching 23% across the UK. Of the managers who responded, 96% managing children’s services and 90% managing adult services said recruitment is more or much more challenging than at any time in the last three years. This is pan-sector with vacancies just as high, if not higher, in non-NHS services.

Vacancy rates in in children’s education services in England are equally troubling, reaching an average 25%.

One respondent told us:

“Many of our issues are that posts are not permanent, so difficult to attract therapists with the level of specialist skills required for our client group (neonates and children) on short term contracts, other than from within the region/local where there is only a very small pool to start with.”

Recruitment challenges in the NHS are at every band, with recruitment at band six most affected.

“There has historically been a difficulty recruiting senior posts – B7 and B8 equivalent, however the issue is now across all… We have recently struggled to recruit at a B5 level and B6 level and are repeatedly going out to advert.”

These findings confirm what we already knew that there are not enough speech and language therapists to meet demand.

We have made NHS England aware of this data and we await the workforce plan to see how they will address the many challenges with the workforce. We welcomed the additional funding for allied health professionals in Wales, however we will continue to lobby for better funding and support for speech and language therapy across all nations.

We will be running the vacancy survey again in June to monitor the situation closely, so if you manage speech and language therapy services, please do make sure you take part.

The full results are available below with breakdowns for Wales and Scotland. You can also read our briefing on speech and language therapy workforce planning in England.