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Better swallow safety at Southend

04 August 2015

Health Care

Eating and drinking is something that most of us take for granted, but for some patients it can be a major issue, causing an increased risk of food, drink and medications going down the wrong way and possibly causing serious chest infections.

But now, Southend University Hospital's expanded team of nine speech and language therapists is on hand to assess, treat and manage patients with feeding and swallowing difficulties, in order to assist nursing staff in identifying patients who may need help.

The team is carrying out 'water swallow screen training' to enhance awareness of these issues and increase insight into the warning signs of swallow problems. The screening tool provides a straightforward and safe way for nurses to establish whether a patient's swallow safety is in question.

There was no speech and language therapy service to the acute wards and gradually the team has grown to its current size. A bigger team means that it can offer more training, faster, with just over half the hospital having received the training to date.

This important initiative is being led by four members of the team across the hospital. As swallowing issues can arise in a great variety of medical conditions, the screen will be useful in all ward areas.

Heading up the team is speech and language therapist, Greg Heather, who said: "Providing this training to nursing staff means that the team can get to an unsafe patient faster, decreasing the occurrence of hospital acquired pneumonia secondary to aspiration. This in turn increases our quality of care."

That quality of care is of paramount importance and as such hospital staff have welcomed the initiative and been enthusiastic about the training and the benefits it brings.

This latest round of training has focused on Blenheim, AMU 2, Gordon Hopkins and Sita Lumsden wards.