CHILDREN and adults who receive speech and language therapy in Wales could lose out in future if services fall victim to NHS cost-cutting, experts are warning.

Therapists, people who have used speech and language services, and student therapists held a rally at the Senedd in Cardiff, saying services could become an easy target for cutbacks in tough budgetary times.

The event was held as part of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ (RCSLT) Giving Voice campaign, which aims to persuade governments to see speech and language therapy as a cost-saving intervention – helping prevent intervention later in a patient’s life – rather than an easy target for making savings.

Gwent-based Dr Alison Stroud, Wales policy officer for the RCSLT, said a key worry is that training numbers could be cut in future, leaving a shortfall in therapists several years down the line.

She said: “Student commissioning figures have not been finalised, but they could be down.

“We had a shortage of speech and language therapists in Wales several years ago and that caused big delays for people needing therapy.

“We don’t want to see that happening again.

“We’re not asking for more, just asking that we not lose what we have.

“A lot of people think speech and language is just elocution lessons, but it is much more than that.

“Speech, language and communications problems can be disabling and cause enormous social, mental and economic hardship for sufferers and their families.

“Early intervention by speech and language therapists has been shown to unlock the potential of these people and save money for already stretched NHS services.

“In Wales, speech, language and communication disability are widespread, and that support must be readily accessible.”