§ 13. Mr. Martyn Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are his plans for the future of the speech therapy profession.
§ Mr. Virginia Bottomley
Speech therapy services have expanded and developed considerably over the past 10 years. We are working with the profession on plans for further improvements.
§ Mr. Jones
Will the Minister acknowledge that, despite those efforts, there is still a chronic shortage of properly qualified speech therapists to treat communication-handicapped patients within the health service? Will she further acknowledge that urgent action is needed to increase the recruitment and remuneration in this valuable service and that the way forward is not to establish a tier of partially trained therapists acting as fully trained therapists within the service, but to put all the effort behind fully and properly qualified speech therapists?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
There has been an 82 per cent. increase in qualified speech therapists over the past 10 years and they are better paid than they used to be. However, I recognise the hon. Gentleman's point that there are rising expectations of the number of tasks that speech therapists can rightly perform. It is important to consider the skill mix and to ensure that qualified speech therapists are used 150 for the tasks for which their skills are necessary. We are also carrying forward plans for clinical audit. We have regular discussions with the College of Speech Therapists and we will continue to consider all the points to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.
§ Mr. Jessel
In view of the standard of some of their speeches, will my hon. Friend provide speech therapy for the Labour party? [Interruption.]