10 February 2021

A BBC News article highlights the vital role speech and language therapists (SLTs) have in rehabilitation after COVID-19. The article features the story of service user, Robert Crowther, as well as interviews with RCSLT chief executive Kamini Gadhok and RCSLT adviser in critical care Dr Camilla Dawson.

As we continue to learn more about the complexities of the virus, SLTs – “the often hidden front-line workers” – are working hard to help patients with long-term problems after contracting COVID-19.

Thousands of patients, many of whom are left unable to talk, eat and drink after weeks in intensive care, are being rehabilitated by SLTs. Around 60% of patients who have been “intubated for at least seven to 10 days have problems swallowing” and vocal cords can be severely damaged.

Robert Crowther was supported by SLTs when one of his vocal cords was paralysed by the ventilator that had kept him breathing for weeks in intensive care – “It was clear I’d fought off Covid, but now I couldn’t speak.”

Fortunately, after continued rehabilitation from the speech and language therapy team, Robert was able to eat and drink again and, in November last year, his voice “just came back”.

The rehabilitation journey can be long, and speech and language therapy services play a vital role in helping patients to find their voices again.

Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of RCSLT said: “We are still learning about patients’ recovery but we are doing really well as a profession to pick things up and learn from it.”

Dr Camilla Dawson said: “Eating, drinking and communicating […] enable us to connect, to be with people and share experiences, central to our cultures and the way we interact with society.

“[SLTs] are with people through the toughest, most isolating time. It’s the most overwhelming feeling to know how hard an individual has worked and how much opportunity they will have as a result of their treatment.”

Read the full article at BBC News online.

Visit the RCSLT COVID-19 hub for resources, guidance and support during the pandemic.