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Impact of COVID-19 on digital practice in UK paediatric speech and language therapy and implications for the future: A national survey

Patel, R. ORCID: 0000-0003-4163-1100, Loraine, E. & Greaux, M. (2022). Impact of COVID-19 on digital practice in UK paediatric speech and language therapy and implications for the future: A national survey. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12750

Abstract

Background
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent measures to reduce transmission risk has led to unprecedented digital transformation across health, education and social care services. This includes UK paediatric speech and language therapy (SLT), which sits at the crossroads of these services. Given the rapid onset of this pandemic-induced digital transition, there is now a need to capture, reflect and learn from the SLT profession so that benefits can be sustained, and barriers addressed.

Aims
To survey the impact of COVID-19 remote working on UK paediatric SLTs’ digital views and experiences using the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation and Behaviour (COM-B) model.

Methods & Procedures
An online survey was conducted from May to October 2020. Respondents were asked to rate their use of technology in service delivery before and during the pandemic, to select factors facilitating digital practice, and to provide open-response aspirations for the future role of technology in paediatric SLT which were analysed thematically using the COM-B behaviour change model.

Outcomes & Results
A total of 424 UK paediatric SLTs responded to the survey. Findings indicate a marked increase in clinicians’ perception of their frequency, convenience and confidence with digital practice during COVID-19 compared with before the pandemic. Respondents identified that specialist training (27%), funding for workplace devices (22%) and supportive leadership (19%) were most likely to facilitate sustained digital practice. Clinicians hoped for a blended approach going forward with technology enhancing existing best practice. Further prominent themes included digital accessibility for all and maintaining the increased opportunity for multidisciplinary working that videoconferencing has afforded. More service-specific aspirations were bespoke technological solutions as well as parents/carers being able to engage remotely with school-based provisions.

Conclusions & Implications
During COVID-19, paediatric SLTs’ recognition and acceptance of how technology can augment practice has accelerated, with particular value being placed on inclusivity, choice, training, resources, leadership and indication of effectiveness. These are important considerations to help guide the profession towards the long-term digital enhancement of SLT services.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: COVID-19, paediatric speech and language therapy, survey, telehealth, telepractice, UK
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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