B4327 - Improving speech outcomes in preterm children - 24/05/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Sam Burr | BSLTRU / North Bristol NHS Trust (United Kingdom)
Title of project: 
Improving speech outcomes in preterm children
Proposal summary: 

This project will investigate how speech sounds develop in the first 8 years of life in children born prematurely. Preterm children are at increased risk of impaired neurodevelopment, which can include problems with acquisition of speech and speech disorder. Speech sound disorder can impact their learning, mental health, and life chances in adulthood. This study will provide information on how prematurity impacts speech development and how this compares with full-term children. This will help health professionals in the early identification and intervention of preterm children requiring support.

The study comprises five workstreams. 1) a full systematic review of the literature to determine the characteristics associated with speech sound development in preterm children; 2) examination of data from the ALSPAC dataset to explore the characteristics and outcomes of speech development in preterm children in the first 8 years of life compared with full term children; 3) examination of data from the National Neonatal Audit Programme (NNAP) to explore how the degree of prematurity impacts speech development in preterm children; 4) collection of new data from a clinical sample of preterm children recruited from NHS neonatal services in Bristol and Cardiff; 5) a UK-wide online survey will determine the role of Speech and Language Therapists in NHS neurodevelopmental assessments for preterm children in the first 3 years of life.

Impact of research: 
We do not currently understand how speech develops in preterm children. We know that this group of children are at higher risk of speech difficulties, but we also know that many of them develop typical speech without problems. This research will provide a robust picture of speech development in preterm children. This information will ensure health and care services are optimised for early identification and intervention for this group of children with savings in cost and time in surveillance for the children who are at low/no risk of speech difficulties. This research fully aligns with the NHS Long Term Plan key objective to ensure a strong start in life for children and young people (NHS, 2019) and the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit theme Early interventions for children and families. As part of this work, the applicant will develop collaborative links with research teams in Sweden and Australia who are exploring related topics in this field. This will strengthen the research and the international influence of the work. The research will benefit children and their families, communities, and our wider society. In line with UK government priorities, this research represents an opportunity for levelling-up healthcare access and quality for children at risk of poorer life outcomes. Children cannot access education without good communication skills. Current health service inequalities across the UK mean that children are subject to a postcode lottery for SLT services. This research will lead to improved and enhanced early surveillance and monitoring for children at greatest risk of speech difficulties, which will impact their education, wellbeing, and life outcomes. This will lead to better life outcomes for this group of children and reduced financial burden on the NHS and society through earlier intervention and more targeted provision of specialist support.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 9 May, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 24 May, 2023
Epidemiology, Speech/language problem, premature birth, Statistical methods, Birth outcomes, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Communication (including non-verbal), Development, Speech and language