Welsh Government
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New service to provide “talking technology” to people with severe speech and communication problems

A new all-Wales service to provide high-tech communication equipment for people with severe speech and communication problems will be set up, Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced.

There are an estimated 15,500 people in Wales who suffer with severe speech and communication problems who will benefit from some form of communication equipment and at least 1,540 of these will require high-tech communication equipment, which can be very expensive.

The new, expanded NHS Wales service, backed by £1.25m funding from the Welsh Government for equipment over two years, together with funding for the permanent appointment of additional staff, will ensure people receive the support they need to support their independence and the quality of their lives.

An example of the technology the service will provide is used by the world-renowned Cambridge physicist Professor Stephen Hawking who uses a computerised voice system to communicate.

The service will provide high-tech electronic devices, often called ‘talkers’; voice output communication aids (VOCA) or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. Specialist AAC services aim to restore a degree of communication for severely or profoundly communication impaired people. The equipment provides a ‘voice’ for the individual to help them to express themselves.

Hosted by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, it will have a single dedicated, ring-fenced budget to provide services across Wales.

A new central hub of expertise will be provided by the All Wales Electronic and Assistive Technology Service, based at Cardiff’s Rookwood Hospital. It will work with Wales’ seven health boards, which will continue to be responsible for delivering the majority of care and services for people with less complex needs who do not require highly-specialised equipment. They will make referrals to the hub and provide ongoing support.

The Welsh Government will be making a significant investment to fund the new service, which includes:

  • £1m for specialist equipment over a two-year period. Equipment will be purchased according to individuals’ circumstances
  • £292,582 to appoint additional permanent staff with expertise to assess the needs of individuals and with knowledge of high-tech communication equipment.

The extra investment in staff means that the number of specialist speech and language therapists will increase from 1.6 whole time equivalents (WTE) to five WTE - three will work with adults (including a specialism in adults with a learning disability) and two will work with children and young people. This increase will secure specific service provision for North Wales for the first time.

Mr Gething said yesterday:

“The importance of effective communication cannot be underestimated. Communication is vital in maintaining our independence.

“This new service will ensure people with severe speech and communication problems will receive the support they need to support their independence and improve the quality of their lives.

“The investment I’m announcing today will allow more staff to be recruited, which will reduce delays and ensure people get the equipment they need  . It will also enable the service to purchase specialist equipment designed to meet the needs of the individual.”


Channel website: http://gov.wales

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