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Implement Sci. 2011 Aug 12;6:95. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-6-95.

The applicability of normalisation process theory to speech and language therapy: a review of qualitative research on a speech and language intervention.

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National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, 113 The Ropewalk, Nottingham NG15DU, United Kingdom.



The Bercow review found a high level of public dissatisfaction with speech and language services for children. Children with speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN) often have chronic complex conditions that require provision from health, education, and community services. Speech and language therapists are a small group of Allied Health Professionals with a specialist skill-set that equips them to work with children with SLCN. They work within and across the diverse range of public service providers. The aim of this review was to explore the applicability of Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) to the case of speech and language therapy.


A review of qualitative research on a successfully embedded speech and language therapy intervention was undertaken to test the applicability of NPT. The review focused on two of the collective action elements of NPT (relational integration and interaction workability) using all previously published qualitative data from both parents and practitioners' perspectives on the intervention.


The synthesis of the data based on the Normalisation Process Model (NPM) uncovered strengths in the interpersonal processes between the practitioners and parents, and weaknesses in how the accountability of the intervention is distributed in the health system.


The analysis based on the NPM uncovered interpersonal processes between the practitioners and parents that were likely to have given rise to successful implementation of the intervention. In previous qualitative research on this intervention where the Medical Research Council's guidance on developing a design for a complex intervention had been used as a framework, the interpersonal work within the intervention had emerged as a barrier to implementation of the intervention. It is suggested that the design of services for children and families needs to extend beyond the consideration of benefits and barriers to embrace the social processes that appear to afford success in embedding innovation in healthcare.

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