The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) – our professional body - offers guidance (‘Working in Harmony’) about the ‘interface’ between NHS and private providers but this hasn’t been refreshed since NHS cuts have really begun to bite resulting in far more independent provider activity being commissioned by schools (rather than it primarily being about individual clients accessing additional therapy support to either reduce waiting times or supplement what the NHS could offer).
Whilst in essence, therapists are duty-bound to liaise with each other to ensure the best outcome for the client, relationships on the ground can be extremely variable and there never seems enough time to take a step back and enter into those more strategic discussions about how, collectively, we can make best use of resources.
In today’s environment, this should be more than just ‘working in harmony’: NHS services operate under constraints and can only provide what they are commissioned to deliver.
Independent providers have far more freedom to work with different kinds of needs. Soundswell have no such exclusion criteria – but we do work to the commission from our schools and settings.
How has this worked in Dudley thus far?
As soon as we knew that we would be undertaking regular work in Old Park we let the Dudley SLT service know, and the same thing happened when Pens Meadow opted to commission us. We have now met twice with the senior therapists in Dudley: we understand what their statutory role is and they are comfortable with what, in partnership with the schools, we have agreed to provide.
We fully recognise the difficulties facing NHS services (having worked in and managed, similar departments for many years) - and consider ourselves fortunate to enjoy such a relaxed and productive relationship with our Dudley colleagues – they, like us, have the best interests of children, families and schools at heart. Their approach to ‘working in harmony’ is, indeed, a breath of fresh air!