A PRISONER whose life was transformed after receiving speech and language therapy via a video link has shared his experience with Airedale Hospital board members.

He addressed a board meeting on screen and explained how seeking help to conquer a stammer was the best thing he had ever done.

The 45-year-old – whose name was given simply as Mark – had 13 sessions through the telemedicine service with Airedale NHS Foundation Trust speech and language therapist, Stephanie Burgess.

"One thing I always wanted to do was say happy birthday to my daughter over the phone – which I'd struggled to manage," he said.

"After speaking to my therapist about it, she told me to split the words down.

"The day I said it over the phone to my daughter, it made me so happy.

"I could not have done any of this without therapy and the excellent help and advice from my therapist.

"After 40-plus years of stammering, I never thought I could ever stand in groups of people and join in conversations, or openly speak over the phone.

"With many thanks to my therapist, I now can."

Stephanie said initially she was apprehensive about using telemedicine for the therapy, fearing it would be no substitute for personal contact.

But after several sessions, she realised it was equally as effective as meeting the person face to face.

"I am so proud of what Mark has achieved," she added.

"I saw a complete transformation in him, from the first session – when he was shaking and crying, looking down, covering his mouth and constantly switching his words – to the last session, when he was laughing and joking and telling me how happy he was to have been able to join in with a discussion about football and to have wished his daughter a happy birthday."

Stephanie said her approach was always tailored to the individual and she encouraged people to be open about their stammer.

"I then use a combination of offering practical techniques and tackling the psychological aspect to help them realise that others often won't judge them negatively," she said.

"By the end of the sessions, Mark no longer cared that he stammered and because he no longer worried, he didn't stammer as much."

Following the success of the initiative, the British Stammering Association is now investigating extending the use of telemedicine to patients in parts of the country where NHS trusts don't currently offer a speech therapy service to adults who stammer.

Airedale Hospital's telemedicine facility – launched two years ago with technology company Involve – provides a 24-hour service to nursing and residential care homes, patients' houses and prisons across the country.