Low waiting times for speech and language therapy in Stirling

A partnership between Stirling Council and NHS Forth Valley is delivering some of the lowest waiting times in Scotland for speech and language therapy support, according to a new report.

Children and staff at Cowie Nursery are joined by Cllr Danny Gibson
Cowie Nursery received a Diamond Award from NHS Forth Valley in 2003 for its work to improve children's verbal communication and language skills

For the last academic year (July 2022 – June 2023), 90% of children across Stirling were accessing help within 12 weeks. This follows a period of transformational change within the service, which is the first in Scotland to deliver a whole systems approach to improving children and young people's communication delivering the majority of its resource within education settings.

As of May 2023, the average longest waiting time for initial contact for Speech and Language Therapy in Scotland was 13 months.

A focus on early intervention and support for children via methods such as training and coaching for education staff has also helped reduce requests for individualised support. The service has delivered training sessions on topics such as Adult-Child Interaction and Makaton in addition to providing guidance for staff to introduce strategies within classroom and nursery settings.

The Speech and Language Therapy service have also ensured that each education setting in Stirling has a link therapist available to discuss concerns and strategies with staff. This has helped to keep caseloads at a manageable level for NHS Forth Valley with a 29% reduction in requests for individual support.

In the last year, Cowie Nursery became the first in Stirling to receive a diamond award from NHS Forth Valley for its work to significantly improve verbal communication and language skills among children.

'Pioneering approach'

Children and Young People Convener, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “The pioneering approaches of Stirling Council’s education service and NHS Forth Valley in speech and language therapy is making a positive difference to the lives of children and families in our communities.

“The Speech and Language Therapy Service has been embedded throughout our education settings, helping them to efficiently meet the needs of children who require support in a familiar setting.

“I’m highly encouraged by the work done so far and look forward to seeing how NHS Forth Valley and our education service continue to work closely with families to make progress in this area.”

Louisa McGuire, Speech and Language Therapy Coordinator for NHS Forth Valley, said: “Our Speech and Language Therapy team has been working closely with colleagues from Stirling Council’s Education Department to break down barriers and help local families and children access support, at the right time, from the right person. We also want families to feel confident in asking for help if they are worried and, as a result of our collaborative work with education, many more children and young people are now being successfully supported in their homes, schools and early years settings."

Glenn Carter, Head of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in Scotland, said: “I’m delighted to hear about the transformative effects that this approach is having for the children of Stirling. The team’s efforts have demonstrated the power of working together to address the complex problems faced by the children of Scotland. Therefore, with the right resources, we strongly advocate for the integration of speech and language therapy services into educational settings, enhancing learning, well-being, and future life opportunities.”