What's happening with the Northern Centre?

Norbert Lieckfeldt | 30.04.2015

The Leeds Stammering Support Centre has been a great success since its inception in 2011 – not just through the delivery and development of service for children and adults who stammer but also by serving as a Northern Centre of excellence and training for many SLTs, both specialists and generalists.

It had many determined and supportive god-parents like BSA patron Ed Balls and the Trustees of Action for Stammering Children, the Speaker of the House of Commons opened the Centre, and it had the enthusiastic buy-in from Leeds Community NHS Trust (LCH) and the Leeds stammering specialists around Trudy Stewart (aka Dr Trudy) - as well as the Yorkshire and Humber Primary Care Trusts who were willing to block-fund the Centre so that clients from all over the region could simply show up on their doorstep and receive help.

Over time, things became more difficult. Primary Care Trusts were abolished and Clinical Commissioning Groups came in so that funding from outside Leeds became more difficult. Expected numbers of referrals from outside Leeds failed to materialise as money in the NHS was getting tighter.

At present, the Centre will continue to offer specialist speech therapy services for adults and children in Leeds who stammer albeit with reduced staffing. Leeds Community Health will remain committed to accepting referrals for specialist services from outside Leeds, though the funding would now have to be in place before they can do so.

BSA wants to see excellence in service for everyone who stammers, and we believe given the cuts we see in NHS speech therapy services that a Northern Centre could serve as a hub to test out different models of service delivery. There are many area in Yorkshire who would never need to refer clients because they themselves offer a great service – but they could still benefit from training or networking opportunities. There are areas without a specialist service which could benefit from a ‘roving therapist’ who attends a local clinic at certain times of the week. The Centre could also be a place to develop telehealth for more remote areas. These are services which, properly piloted, could attract funding from Clinical Commissioning Group

For that to work, we would need an independent review to look at what worked well, and to see what may need be done differently in future. Following on from that, we will need buy-in from NHS providers and commissioners as well as the support of Action for Stammering Children.

We at BSA are hopeful that with a strong sense of commitment and good will on all sides an even better Northern Centre can re-emerge, offering great services for people who stammer, of all ages, in the North of England.