The workplace has changed and is changing for Speech and Language Therapists. Phrases like ‘portfolio careers’ abound. Back in the age of the dinosaurs when I qualified, therapists would get a job in the NHS and stay there for good. Some branched out into private practice or took jobs in one of a small number of independent schools. Back then it was very difficult to move back into the NHS – bridges had been burned!
In the mid 1990s I decided to become an independent therapist, and in those days that meant you were a ‘private’ therapist. Liaison with my NHS colleagues was indeed possible but collaborative working was not easy. There were very few of us in the north of England, so it was hard to get support. I was fortunate enough to be working with another private therapist who had been set up for some time. Some time later I decided I wanted to go back to the NHS – but that meant I had to start at the bottom again and work my way back up. Frustrated by this, I left to work in an independent school and from there back into private practice. I now employ other SLTs.
Why am I telling you my career history? Well, I think it highlights how things have changed now and what I now consider to be what defines independent.
There are no mores guarantees for Graduates working in the NHS and certainly no guarantee you will stay there. But, the good news is that there are many more options of employment now – charitable organisations, independent schools, independent practices, and so on. Many have a combination of part time NHS and private work. Some are growing their practices to be international. Some speech and language therapists but don’t provide ‘therapy’ as such – they may provide a training or consultative service or have a product-based service. Sometimes, these workplaces provide excellent support services and the therapist is working as part of a team. It is my belief that these are all ‘Independent Practitioner’.
However, for many it means they are alone. And this is where I believe ASLTIP comes into its own. ASLTIP aims to provide support for independent therapists that is, those who are self employed or lone therapists. We want to ensure that all therapists are not working in isolation as this is when it is so easy to run into problem and get out of touch.
This blog was written by Julie Ansty, Chair, ASLTIP
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