HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1067-9
7. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on what day he proposes to make his further statement about the future of speech therapy services.

20. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps have been taken to implement the recommendations of the Quirk Report on speech therapists.

Mr. Alison

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) on 15th May. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services hopes to make a further statement later this month.—[Vol. 856 c. 276.]

Mr. King

Will my hon. Friend accept that in the meantime the rates of pay of these valued persons is absurdly low and that great harm will be done if they are not raised quickly?

Mr. Alison

The pay and conditions of speech therapists are negotiated by the Whitley Council, as my hon. Friend knows, and the most recent review of salaries was effective from 1st April 1973.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that when we debated this matter some months ago he said that they must fall within stage 3 of the Pay Code? Therefore, when he says that they are negotiated by the Whitley Council, he is pulling the wool over the eyes of hon. Members and people outside. What is the current rate of wastage and the current national shortage of speech therapists?

Mr. Alison

It is impossible to give any realistic figure of the national shortage because it is not possible to determine exactly how much use of speech therapists local authorities or hospital authorities could make. All we can do is to go on the Quirk Report's figures, which suggest that we shall need about 2,500 speech therapists within the next 20 years as opposed to the present 900.

The hon. Gentleman asked for wastage figures. I understand that in the 12 schools and one university we successfully train about 160 speech therapists each year. He can work out the wastage from that.

Mr. Marten

While speech therapy for the younger generation is of absolute importance, may I ask my hon. Friend not to forget that older people who suffer from speech disabilities as a result of strokes would be more productively employed in life if they had speech therapy too?

Mr. Alison

I understand and take my hon. Friend's point. The Department is as fully apprised as possible of the vital contribution that speech therapy makes to handicap generally.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the view of people in my constituency that we are desperately short of speech therapists and that this shortage is manifest particularly in the North-West? Does he also accept that, in the whole range of the para-medical service, the shortage of physiotherapists, radiographers, gymnasts and speech therapists is so great that unless action is taken now it will take three to four years for the gap to be filled? Does he further accept that reasonable people belonging to these organisations know of their own knowledge that there is no negotiation whatever on the Whitley Council? The tablets of stone are brought down from the Treasury and that is the end of the negotiation.

Mr. Alison

When the hon. Gentleman talks about shortages, I hope he will understand that, as the awareness of the extent of handicap—with which he has been very honourably associated—dawns increasingly on the community and as knowledge of what can be done for handicapped people spreads, so there is an almost irresistible increase in the demand for these services, which is in itself healthy but cannot be met instantaneously.