‘Ageing baby boomers have ever-greater medical needs’
The UK does not have enough speech language therapists to meet demand.
Employment of speech and language therapists is projected to grow more rapidly than the average occupation – an increase of 36% in the next five years; this is mainly because of the considerable size of the baby-boom population, there will be more people with health conditions such as hearing loss, strokes and language impairments all requiring speech therapy.
The English population is estimated to increase from approximately 52.6 million in 2011 to 60.4 million in 2032; an increase of almost 15 per cent. It is estimated that by 2050 1.2 million people in the UK will be suffering from dementia and in the later stages of dementia, older patients may also experience difficulties with dysphagia, which has consequently resulted in an increased need for speech and language therapists. (People are living longer and the prevalence and incidence of dementia increases with age.)
The demand for speech and language therapists is higher in areas densely populated with young children or older people.
Communication and memory therapy for people with early dementia are essential to maximise and maintain communication skills and independence for longer. Also, more people are suffering from cancer and the treatment of cancer, for example radiation, can result in swallowing problems.Furthermore, the ageing population is also associated with an increase in the prevalence and incidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and 27 per cent of patients with COPD need support from dysphagia-specialist speech and language therapists.
Speech therapists fluent in more than one language may have better career outlooks because they can work with more patients.
The pay system in the NHS is called Agenda for Change (AfC), which has a system of ‘bands’.
Speech and language therapists generally start on ‘band 5’ and get between £21,388 and £27,901 per year.
Specialist speech and language therapists are graded at ‘band 6’ which is between £25,783 and £34,530 per year.
Advanced therapists or team leaders on ‘band 7’ can earn up to £40,558.
Places of employment include: hospitals, schools, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, paediatric hospitals and home health care firms.
The NHS is by far the largest employer of speech and language therapists, with experience therapists can work in private hospitals and clinics, schools, independent practices, patients’ homes and may become self-employed.