GPs’ knowledge on speech and language norms in relation to referrals to speech and language therapy services
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Speech and language difficulties are considered the least well detected in primary healthcare. This can have a detrimental impact on the children presenting with these difficulties, as the evidence of early intervention is widespread and well known. Within the literature, many have postulated why this may be the case, and some have suggested that delayed referrals to speech and language therapy services is due to General Practitioner’s (GPs) having poor knowledge on speech and language development. This study aimed to explore GPs’ knowledge on speech and language norms, and investigate factors which might influence knowledge, including gender, years of experience and the presence of an additional qualification. Methods: Twenty- two GPs were recruited to complete an online survey, in which they considered eight case based scenarios, developed by the researcher. The GPs were asked to make a choice between three options: ‘refer’, ‘do not refer’, or ‘I don’t know’ and provide a short description as to their choice. The data were analysed using SPSS, and Thematic Networks. The GPs were also asked to provide information regarding their age, gender, additional qualification and years of experience, and these data were also investigated. Results: Out of the 176 referral decisions, 100 of these were correct, giving the GPs an average of 56.8% ‘correctness’ in referral decisions. There was no significant sta-tistical difference found in the quantitative responses of the GPs in terms of gender, years of experience, or with the presence of an additional qualification. From the qual-itative data collected, it was observed that GPs reflected a complex use of a wide range of different “knowledge” including utilising the skills of other primary care professionals and alternative onward referrals to aid their decision making regarding SLT referral. GPs often included specific developmental knowledge across the majority of clinical scenarios but this included both accurate and inaccurate knowledge on speech and language developmental norms. Conclusion: The GPs were able to demonstrate appropriate knowledge of speech and language norms in five of the eight scenarios. A specific strength for GPs was monitoring children under the age of 12 months. A specific area of knowledge deficit was speech sound development in older children (3 years 11 months). GPs utilise many different types of knowledge when making a referral decision. Overall, this is an important area for further research as it not only has future implications for the SLT services, but also for the Health Service.
B.Sc.(Hons) Speech and Language Therapy
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