According to the census figures available to me, there are 345 whole-time equivalent speech and language therapists employed in the health service. I am aware of the difficulties employers are facing in recruiting such therapists, and I have engaged Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates to undertake a workforce planning study for the three therapy professions, that is, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. This study will look at the period from 2000 to 2015 and estimate the number of therapists that will be required to meet service needs. The results of this study will be available next month, and my Department will then begin discussions with the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority to plan for the anticipated increased number of training places.
As an interim measure, I asked my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science to investigate increasing the number of training places in speech and language therapy from October 2000. An additional three places were secured, which brings to 107 the number undergoing training at the moment.
The salary scale for speech and language therapists is from £20,118 to £26,274, with a long service increment after three years at the maximum of the scale, bringing the scale to £26,801. On promotion to senior therapist, a therapist's salary rises by £4,200 and on promotion to manager, by a further £4,200.