One of our colleagues has pulled together some really interesting data (see below) showing where our participants live in the UK. There seems to be a good spread right across the country but there is a definite concentration in the south.
One of the requirements for people wanting to access the therapy is that they cannot access any therapy locally. There are many reasons why they may not be able to access the therapy. One of the reasons may be that there is no local NHS service in their area. This could explain why we have so many participants from the London area. Despite the higher population, there seems be a great need for more trained specialists in Adult Stammering in the NHS and this is hopefully something that our project is helping to address.
Having no access to local provision is not the only way to access therapy on our project though. Some of our participants cannot feasibly access the service in their local area for reasons such as their working life restricting them, the journey being too far or expensive to make regularly or the waiting list being far too long.
We have some fantastic personal stories of why people have felt now is the right time to undertake therapy for their stammer. From starting a new profession, to upcoming public speaking right through to wanting to feel comfortable being able to take their kids to the park by themselves and not feel worried that they won’t be able to get assistance if the need arose. The range of reasons is vast, and all are equally as valid as the next.
42 patients have now referred themselves to the project. This was our original target for the full year so it is fantastic to get to this milestone at half way through the project.
Approximately 62% of our participants are male. The current estimation of males to females who stammer worldwide is approximately 80% men to 20% women. So although we do have more men than women on the trial, we have a stronger representation from women than statistics would have predicted.
Our average age of participant is 35. This is quite a low figure and we do wonder whether it is due to the nature in which we communicate about the project, and the way in which it is accessed. We are offering therapy in an innovative way and this might not be reaching everybody.
However, we do think that the technology we use, and the way in which we run the project is really accessible for everyone and nobody should be put off by the fact that it’s done over the internet!
Well, it’s been a busy time recently here on the project. The big news is that we have been shortlisted for a Guardian Public Service Award in the Digital and Technology category. This is a massive accolade for the project team, and it’s wonderful that our work is receiving that kind of recognition. Hopefully this will help to highlight the many struggles faced on a daily basis by people who stammer and get the word out that there is specialist help available. It feels like we’ve come a very long way since last year, when the British Stammering Association chairman Tim Fell first rang me to discuss whether delivering therapy by telemedicine to adults who stammer might be an option.
And talking of Tim, he has just finished an amazing walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End, raising awareness of stammering as he went – an incredible achievement! I had the honour of walking a very short section of the route with him as he passed through Yorkshire. There’s still time to donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stamwalkLast week I was at the Oxford Dysfluency Conference, an amazing opportunity to learn from researchers and specialists in stammering from all over the world. My brain is still hurting from all the information I took in! There was lots of interest in the project, and it was wonderful to be able to share our learning with others.
And meanwhile, the day to day work goes on. Referrals continue to come in, and therapy continues to be delivered. We received some lovely feedback this week from one of our participants, who said,
“Since our last appointment, I’ve been a lot more open with how I stammer and in doing so have become more comfortable in my speech and how I feel around stammering. I’ve been really impressed with telemedicine. It’s a fantastic service and personally I’ve found it far more beneficial than the face to face meetings I had with my previous speech therapist.”
Summertime, but the work goes on here at the project. Five months in, Project Manager Jody and I have definitely settled into the swing of things. All of our technical issues have been ironed out, our admin systems are working, and we’re focusing on the important task of helping people to live the lives they want to live. We’ve now got thirty-six people signed up, with participants at all stages of therapy. A couple of people have dropped out, which we expected, but it’s frustrating that we don’t always find out why. Was it not the right time for them? Was it not what they expected? Could we have done things differently?
Most of our first cohort are coming to the end of their therapy journey with us, although hopefully that doesn’t mean that their learning stops. The main aim of therapy for stammering is to help people to equip themselves with the tools and strategies to manage their stammer on an ongoing basis and feel comfortable about it long-term; effectively, to become their own therapist. Supportive friends, family and colleagues can all help to play a part in this.
I wish them all well with wherever life takes them next, and it’s great that they’ve got what they wanted out of therapy, but I’ll miss them. Therapists are given a privileged window into people’s lives for a while and travel with them on a magical mystery tour of discovery, learning and change. There’s definitely a sense of loss for me once my part in their journey is at an end. Hopefully they’ll keep in touch!
A few weeks ago I attended a workshop run by Haelo, in partnership with the Health Foundation, which focused on ‘Scale Up and Spread Improvement’ for some of the Health Foundation funded projects.
This was an excellent opportunity to meet with the other projects in our round of Health Foundation funding to see how they are getting on and share any learnings we have made in our projects so far.
The speaker for the day was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Brendon Bennett. Brendon is an Improvement Advisor who started his career as a volunteer with the US Peace Corps in Uganda. He has since worked with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and as a consultant in Improvement Science across a wide range of countries and various sectors.
I was really impressed with the insight and experience Brendon brought to the day. His enthusiasm was almost tangible and quite infectious. The day itself was great, speaking to other groups about how their projects were going and any hurdles they had faced was useful and brought home just how successful the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust project really is. We seem to be on track and seeing results for our participants already and this is great.
The academy showed me a few things that I need to work on for the project though. Sometimes, it’s so easy to get immersed in the day-to-day running of a project that you forget about the analysis or the measurement required – WEmay know that the project is great but we need to be able to show external audiences how great it is!
So on that note, I am now busy beavering away on our Change Package, Measurement Tree and Driver Diagrams…wish me luck!
Hi, I’m Moira, and I’m Speech and Language Therapist in a supporting role for the Airedale telemedicine pilot. Steph invited me to sit in on some sessions recently. Firstly my thanks to Steph and her clients for letting me sit in, and now here are some my reflections of the day.
Seeing clients on their own turf made for a more relaxed and less formal session, and allowed a window into their everyday lives. Our first client logged in from work and was very soon telling us about her talking challenges there, and her hopes and dreams for her future career. She and Steph could work with what mattered in the here and now. There was a great sense of immediacy and relevance in the session. I was also impressed with this lady’s openness and ability to reflect on her skills and progress after just a handful of sessions.
Another client logged in from his car. Again, in his own space, he could talk about his talking at home, work and hopes for the future. The discussions that followed seemed better aligned to the client’s everyday life. This gentleman seemed curious about and to take comfort from hearing about others’ experiences of stammering.
What surprised me about the Telemedicine day were the many advantages of seeing people in their own environment, both for the client and the therapist. What might have been regarded as a compromise to get around geography and other issues might well come into its own!
Otherwise, but still important, a message to any tentative clients out there, it was a very positive and at many times, a fun day. Yes, sessions can occasionally be challenging, but there is laughter in-between.
One of the best moments of the project so far has been watching a video of one of our participants give a wonderfully moving speech at her local Toastmasters club. Laura got great feedback from her audience and was awarded best speaker. She has kindly agreed to share the video, so you can watch it here. It’s a great example of the rewards that come from being brave.
From a personal point of view, I am delighted that we have found a better platform to deliver the sessions – appear.in. It’s free to use, the video and sound quality are excellent with no lagging, and it’s really easy to use. There’s no software or apps to be installed, and no wrestling with the audio and video functions – you just share a link and it works straight away! And importantly for us as an NHS Trust, it’s secure and encrypted, with no data being stored on their server. Thank goodness I can now focus on the therapy and not waste the first ten minutes of every session trying to sort out the technology!
When we first proposed this project, we said we would aim to see between forty and sixty participants over the course of the year, but we were slightly concerned that we would not be able to get that many referrals. We needn’t have worried – less than three months in, we are already up to thirty-two, with four new referrals in the last two days! One of the things our wonderful project manager, Jody, is working hard on at the moment is looking into how we can continue this service after the life of the project, as there is clearly a demand. Watch this space….