April 13, 2024

Royal College praises work of Oxford Health colleague

Lizzie King, Allied Health Professional Clinical Lead and Professional Lead for Adult Speech Therapy, contributed to research and a position statement for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists on the use of thickened fluids for patients experiencing swallowing difficulties.

The work has been showcased by the national organisation which has also awarded the authors, including Lizzie, certificates to mark their achievements. Colleagues with an interest can find out more on the RCSLT website.

She explained: “A large number of patients in the Trust have swallowing difficulties due to their condition. It’s something that can happen due to a neurological condition such as Motor Neurone Disease or Parkinson’s as well as a result of a stroke.

“The project uses evidence-based research to develop good practice and encourage an approach where thickened fluids are not the first and automatic response to helping someone with a swallowing difficulty.

“While they can make swallowing more comfortable for some patients, thickened fluids can also mean patients drink less and get dehydrated.  They move more slowly which can reduce coughing, however coughing does not always mean a serious problem for that individual or mean that they will develop a respiratory infection, as used to be the thinking.

“Eating and drinking is more than just getting enough hydration and nutrition.

“We are advocating for more focus on an individual’s circumstances so that they are supported to drink in a way that works best for them. Thickened fluids will remain an option, but hopefully they will now be part of a range of considerations rather than an automatic choice.

“It is very exciting to know that the research and position statement has now been picked up nationally and internationally and will hopefully contribute to patient safety and better involvement in decisions about their care.”

Published: 23 February 2024

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