The Trust has seen increasing demand of around eight per cent year on year since 2015 for speech and language assessment and treatment.
Despite increases in capacity and service efficiency, demand continues to outstrip capacity, resulting in the service being unable to provide the treatment needed for some children in mainstream schools – which was its primary purpose.
Kate Gleave, deputy director of commissioning at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It has been difficult to quantify the scale of the deficit but what is clear is that the educational attainment and progress and wider outcomes of children with speech, language and communication needs are sub-optimal as a result.”
In light of this, Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, Sheffield Council and Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust have been reviewing the service since May 2019.
The Trust decided to temporarily close the service to new referrals this April after their review found it was treating adults as well as children for stammering and cleft lip and palate issues.
There are estimated to be around 21 stammer patients and 92 cleft lip patients over the age of 18 and those patients already being treated before April, are currently still being supported regardless of age.
But long-term the Trust is considering closing the service to all adult patients, meaning any adults still receiving treatment would be transferred to an alternative provider which is likely to be outside of Sheffield or may be available remotely via phone or online appointment.
If this goes ahead, it is expected to also impact between 13 and 30 new stammer patients every year and five new patients needing cleft lip support every year.
The CCG is looking at what options are available and trying to procure treatment for patients referred since April from an alternative provider as a temporary measure.
So far, there has been no consultation with patients to understand the impact of closing the service and no equality and quality impact assessment.
But a commitment was made to develop an “inclusive engagement plan” to allow those affected to have their voice heard. This will likely be an eight to 12 week consultation.
Ms Gleave said: “Whilst there will undoubtedly be an impact on the individuals affected by the service closure and for those of working age, the Trust has advised that they would not expect any of the patients to require urgent treatment from a clinical perspective.
“It is anticipated that this proposed change in service will increase the capacity of the Trust to assess and treat children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. This should particularly positively impact on those with the greatest needs.”
The proposed changes are to be discussed at a healthier communities and adult social care scrutiny and policy development committee meeting this week.
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 14 from 4pm and will be webcast live via the council's website.