Spotlight ASLTIP member Sarah Macfarlane

Date: 13th July 2014

Posted on: 13-07-2014

This week, our guest blogger is ASLTIP Executive Committee member, webeditor Sarah Macfarlane. Sarah shares the story of her career and her involvement in ASLTIP.


The year in which ASLTIP was founded was my first year as a postgraduate MSc SLT student. Before doing my SLT training, I read English at university, and then worked in fashion buying and in publishing. I had little understanding of how the healthcare system worked, other than that the NHS was somehow ‘free’. I certainly had very little knowledge or awareness of what an independent or ‘private’ SLT was or did. We had a Conservative government under John Major, and the first NHS Trusts were being established. It was the beginning of the internal market and the separation of the roles of ‘purchaser’ and ‘provider’. This was, to me, a completely new and somewhat bizarre way of looking at healthcare, with health authorities and some GPs given budgets to buy healthcare from the providers. I had a vague notion that this so-called ‘privatisation’ of the NHS was ‘wrong’. I was lucky enough to have excellent student placements in both the private and public sectors, and I got the impression that it was very much a ‘them and us’ culture, with NHS therapists at best ‘tolerating’ private SLTs and at worst being at outright war with them!


So it was that, upon qualifying 2 years later, I had no intention of working privately but saw myself as a small but important cog in the NHS wheel. I knew I wanted to work with adults, and this is what I have done over the last 19 years. I also spent a couple of years as a web designer and loved that the internet was becoming the place to share and learn knowledge and skills.


I am currently on secondment from my part-time NHS SLT job, working in IT-related project management. To keep up my clinical skills, I decided to set up in independent practice. I have no illusions about independent SLT being about an easy, well paid ride, but what it does provide is the opportunity to really get to know my patients as people, and to have the time to get to understand their impairments and disabilities at a possibly deeper level than in my NHS job. It’s also great being my own boss for half a week. The boundary between the independent and public sectors has become much less well defined in the last two decades, with the recent Health and Social Care Bill putting clinicians at the centre of commissioning and encouraging a social enterprise culture from both within and outside of the NHS. As independent therapists, this could give us both amazing opportunities and severe challenges.


I’ve been an ASLTIP member for the length of my time working independently, and although impressed by the service it offers, felt that there was so much more it could do to support its members, especially through its website. The opportunity to be a part of the ‘new ASLTIP’ when it transferred from being an association to a company limited by guarantee and to do this as its web and ITP editor seemed too good to ignore, so I applied and was very pleased to be successful.


At the moment, I am putting together the special anniversary edition of ITP. It’s been great fun as well as an honour and I hope we’ve been successful in showcasing a few enterprising and inspirational independent SLTs. As for our website and web services, I’m very open to suggestions from members as to how we can improve and develop these.


Sarah Macfarlane,



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