Sheffield councillors’ anger over service closure for adults without consultation

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Councillors criticised Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust for closing its language and speech service to adults without consultation.

The service closed to new adult referrals in April, wrongly believing it had enough time to organise an alternative provider before any new patients needed the service. It was done before an equality and quality impact assessment and without consultation with patients.

It followed a review sparked by an increasing demand of eight per cent year on year that was outstripping capacity. The review found it was treating adults as well as children for stammering and cleft lip and palate issues so closed it temporarily to adults to focus on treatment of children.

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The service is considering closing permanently to adults, meaning more than 100 patients already receiving treatment for stammer or cleft lip and any new referrals over the age of 18 will be directed to an alternative provider likely to be outside of Sheffield

Town Hall.Town Hall.
Town Hall.

A report on the situation was brought to a health and adult social care scrutiny committee this week for the committee to decide if the proposals constituted a “substantial change”, to which one councillor asked “why wouldn’t we view it as substantial?”.

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, member of the committee, said: “It feels like we are doing this retrospectively and the decision has already been made for new patients from April onwards so this raises alarm bells for me as it feels like we are doing things back-to-front and it renders any equality and quality impact assessment defunct because the decision has been made…

“Why would that decision be made with nothing for service users to be referred to?”

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Kate Gleave, deputy director of commissioning at NHSSheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said it had dropped down the priority order due to Covid.

She said: “Being honest, as I’m sure you can appreciate, both organisations have been focussing on recovery from Covid over the last couple of months. The CCG team has had reduced capacity unfortunately over the last six months and it has chosen to prioritise work to improve special educational needs and disability services.”

Dr Jeff Perring, a director at The Trust, added: “This is a therapy service that is treating patient cohorts that is significantly outside the Trust’s normal and extended age range. We are very much a service that treats children and young people up to the age of 16, we do go beyond that but only very rarely do we go much beyond 18.

“There is also a limited capacity within the service and this capacity can’t support demands placed upon it…

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“The closure of this service will provide additional therapy capacity which can be directed to areas of specific needs…so referred children can be seen sooner.”

Ms Gleave said they were prioritising trying to find an alternative provider for new referrals in the meantime.

Councillor Bernard Little, member of the committee, said he was “very disturbed” by the situation and said it seems like adults are being treated as of lesser importance.

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