Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



The Chair stated that five questions had been received from members of the public, all relating to Item 7 on the agenda (item 6 of these minutes) (Adult Dysfluency and Cleft Lip and Palate Service) as follows:-




My name is Kirsten Howells. I am the Helpline Support Manager and Programme Lead for the national charity, STAMMA, which is also known as the British Stammering Association. Since the closure of the specialist stammering service to new adult referrals from 1st April, our helpline and webchat services have been contacted directly by 3 Sheffield adults who stammer who have had their referrals to the service rejected, and from staff members in two other specialist NHS teams in Sheffield regarding three of their patients who have had their referrals to the service rejected. All 6 are urgently seeking therapy and support related to stammering.


Having a stammer can mean that everyday life is an obstacle course. Situations that fluent speakers take for granted can be really tricky for people who stammer. Think about the small things like buzzing in on the intercom at the GP surgery, but reception hang up when you can’t say your name and they think someone’s just playing games, being laughed at or mocked while ordering a coffee, or struggling to introduce yourself to new colleagues. Or the big things like being unable to work, because you’ve suddenly, out-of-the-blue, started stammering, or because the impact of a life-long stammer is affecting your ability to carry out your job. Or feeling suicidal because of the negative reactions of others to the way you speak, or having difficulty speaking in a police interview as the victim of a crime and those dysfluencies being misinterpreted as nervousness or lying. For these reasons and many more, some people who stammer seek support from speech and language therapy yet, in Sheffield, although there are therapists with specialist skills in this area, they are no longer able to accept referrals for these adults.


The Report of the Director of Commissioning Development states in Section 4.1 that the Trust would not expect any of the patients to require urgent treatment from a clinical perspective but, based on my own contact with the people who’ve had their referrals to the service rejected, I strenuously challenge that position.


In Section 2.8, the report states that the CCG is in the process of trying to procure treatment for the individual patients referred since 1 April from an alternative provider as a temporary measure. However, both STAMMA as an organisation and the patients I’ve been speaking to, including those who have contacted STAMMA this month, are unaware of alternative provision being in place.


Does the Committee consider that allowing the service to continue accepting new referrals whilst any necessary service reviews and consultations are underway, is preferable to a situation where the adults who stammer seeking support are effectively abandoned - rejected by the existing specialist service but with no alternative provision in place?




The Chair stated that he would respond to the question when the Committee moved on to the next item of business and thanked Kirsten Howells for submitting her question and attending the meeting.




Isabel O’Leary, Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, had asked that background information be circulated to Members regarding the Adult Dysfluency and Cleft Lip and Palate Service.  She attended the meeting and asked the following questions:-




(a)      Why was the closure of an existing, long established nationally respected service to new patients carried out without a proper review or consultation and before any alternative provision had been secured and funded?


(b)      Why did the Trust decide at short notice to “temporarily close the services for both pathways to new referrals from 1st April 2021…based on…risks.”   when these services have been operating without problems for decades?




The Chair stated that he would respond to the question when the Committee moved on to the next item of business and thanked Isabel O’Leary for submitting her questions and attending the meeting.




Emily Standbrook-Shaw, Policy and Improvement Officer, stated that questions from three individuals had also been received and she had agreed to read them out as follows:-




Question from Dean Ridge –


My name is Dean Ridge and I’m an IT Service Manager. I have stammered since early childhood, and I received speech therapy as a child and again in my early teens.


In 2011 at the age of 37, I referred myself to the specialist stammering service in Sheffield because I had reached a stage in my life where I needed extra support with my Stammer.

The SLT's helped me understand my stammer a lot more and introduced the concept of it being “ok to stammer” and not to hide it. I was a covert stammerer which meant I hid my stammer and did everything possible to avoid situations where I might Stammer and be found out.

We worked on acceptance and desensitisation to Stammering and this was literally life changing for me and has led to life decisions and experiences that simply weren’t open to me before therapy. I am now a proud stammerer who isn’t afraid to speak anymore.


For all of my adult life I would only say what I could fluently and now I say what I want to regardless of whether I stammer. This is such a massive difference for me in a world where communication is so important.


Since having therapy, I started a support group for adults who stammer in Sheffield. I have been interviewed four times on Radio Sheffield about Stammering, given lectures to SLT students at Leeds and Sheffield University and I am currently on the organising committee for a world conference for adults who stammer. None of this would have happened without access to an SLT as an adult.


I know that the stammering service made a very important difference to my life, and I’m concerned to hear that this is no longer available. What are adults like me supposed to do when they reach out for help, perhaps due to concerns that have been building up over time, or because they’ve hit a crisis point and all they get is a rejection letter saying, sorry, there’s simply no support for you here?




Question from Louis Stansfield –


For people like me, having a stammer is very tiring, I am constantly thinking about what I want to say and if I am going to be able to say it. For example, ordering a meal that I want rather than the one that is easiest to pronounce. This service is helping me to work through this and giving me the confidence I need to go into situations rather than avoid them. This includes tackling challenges in life that I have struggled with, such as job interviews and other potentially challenging situations. I reached the point where my stammer was affecting all areas of my life and my confidence was at rock bottom. When I learned of the SLT. Service I felt that I had been given a chance to improve my speech, and subsequently my mental health and this gave me hope.

Removing access to this service will in my view have a massive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people that are already suffering and would leave people without urgent and adequate support that they may need. Would this be the case?




Question from Jo Anderson -




As an adult who stammers and has benefitted from the specialist adult service in Sheffield, I know how difficult it can feel under ordinary circumstances to reach out to a specialist service for support and know the importance of receiving input in a timely way.  Within the context of covid, when many people are anxious about returning to more of a normal life, I imagine that for many adults who stammer, there will be increased anxieties about managing their stammer in social, work and educational settings.  Therefore, I would like to ask:

         Why has the service been suspended at a time when needs will be as great, if not greater than ever due to challenges of managing a stammer in the context of returning to more of a normal life as covid restrictions are lifted?

         What is the justification for not funding a specialist adult service when we know that the significant social and psychological impact of stammering continues into adulthood and affects adults' mental health and ability to engage in work, education and social situations?




The Chair again stated that he would respond to the questions when the Committee moved on to the next item of business and thanked the questioners for submitting their questions.




Questions had been received regarding Agenda Item 8 (Item 7 of these minutes) (Proposed Merger of Norfolk Park and Dovercourt GP Practices), and it was agreed that these would be heard during that item of business.