Adult and Children’s Speech and Language Therapy services at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) have been successfully using video conferencing software to continue assessments and therapy appointments with patients.

Adult Speech and Language Therapy had planned to trial telehealth solutions prior to Covid-19, but this has been accelerated due to the demands of the pandemic and has allowed appointments with vulnerable and shielding patients to continue.

Vikas Nautiyal, an Adult’s Speech and Language Therapist, works mainly with patients who have neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. His work involves helping patients with communication and swallowing difficulties. He said:

“Video conferencing has been a very useful tool in helping the team to keep in touch with patients on their current caseload, and to provide support when they aren’t able to see patients in person because of social distancing (e.g. those with advanced MS/MMD/Alzheimer’s who may be shielding”

“Video consultations are better than telephone calls because it enables us to see the patient’s body posture/facial movements etc. While it can’t completely replace face-to-face, and isn’t suitable for all patients’ conditions, it is a great tool. In the longer term it will be good to continue this especially for elderly patients where travelling to clinics can be difficult. I have also done some calls with patients in care homes and have been able to carry out swallow observations during dinner times.”

Meanwhile, Children’s Speech and Language Therapy have been using video consultations with patients who have a range of needs, such as, speech sound difficulties, language difficulties, dysfluency (stammering), eating and drinking difficulties, communication aid users, and also with children born with cleft lip and palate.

Lindsay Thomason, Children’s Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, said:

“Using video consultations has meant that we, as a service, have been able to continue to offer assessment and treatment, where appropriate to children at a time when we are unable to see them face to face. This has been optional, as some families have told us that they have had enough to cope with already, whilst other families have embraced it and have been pleased to be receiving something in these strange and unprecedented circumstances.”

“Personally, I have found that it works very well for some children and I have found that parents have engaged well in the speech and language therapy sessions and have been able to continue to practise the speech and language work with their children between our video sessions.  Moving forward, we plan to offer video consultations as an option/alternative in the future, even when we are able to resume more face to face contact. This will help us to be more efficient and help families to access our service in a more dynamic way in the electronic world in which we now live!”

Kay Wiggins is a mum who has accessed the children’s service for her five year old son Boyd. She said:

“The team have been great. Once Covid had started I was a bit worried about how it would affect Boyd, and how we would get around it, but then once it was explained that we would have video appointments it put my mind at rest that there was a way around the situation.

I’ve liked doing them because it’s made it a bit more normal in this current situation. Boyd was just getting used to school before this happened so having a video has really helped him. I think if it was any other way we would have struggled to get him to do it.

It’s been really easy. Technology can be a pain sometimes but we’ve had so few issues with it. Boyd has coped really well with it, and Lindsay has made it really fun from her end with different games to keep his interest in it.”

This approach is being also tried in other LPT services such as outpatient physiotherapy, podiatry, and community therapy.