School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Staff Profiles

Dr Catherine Rose Hilton

Speech & Language Therapist


I qualified in 1973 as a licentiate of the College of Speech Therapists. Adult neurological rehabilitation became my main area of interest, after working with mixed caseloads for a number of years in Reading, Oxford and Newcastle. In 1980, I completed an MA in Applied Linguistics at Reading University with a dissertation examining modifications of the speech register used to adults with acquired aphasia. My Ph. D. from Newcastle University (1986) was entitled Linguistic Redundancy and Verbal Comprehension in Aphasia. Materials from the PhD, Picture Array Resource for Comprehension of Sentences (PARCS), are available on request.

 I worked for 10 years as head of SLT at Hunters Moor (now Walkergate Park) Regional Neurological Rehabilitation centre, where we started the first intensive aphasia treatment centre in the north east as a collaboration between NHS services and the university. I took up the post of head of adult services in North Tyneside in 1999, and, in 2008, the role of co-ordinator for the aphasia support centre run by the North East Trust for Aphasia, an independent charity based in the Aphasia Centre at the university. After retiring from my NHS post in December 2010, I now do a range of clinical roles in the aphasia centre.

 I have published papers in the fields of service delivery models, continuing professional development for newly qualified therapists and aphasia treatment. My current main areas of interest are long term support for people with aphasia and information, support and training for their friends and relatives. A recent project led to development of a tool to support health and social care providers examine the quality of their service for relatives. This resource is freely downloadable. from

My main work is with the North East Trust for Aphasia Support Centre ( ). I am also a Clinical Educator for the Tavistock (North East) Aphasia Clinic. Projects I have been involved with are essentially those of engagement. In recent years, this has encompassed engagement with music educators at Sage Gateshead, with Fine Art undergraduates from Newcastle University, with NHS service providers about services for relatives of people with aphasia. We have taken engagement projects out around the region, raising awareness of aphasia and we attract people with aphasia from across the North East to our support centre, where they routinely meet undergraduate and postgraduate students. Our Aphasia Research User Group has been recently refreshed and consolidated and is ready to advise researchers from their own experience. Some recent projects are summarised below.

2012 Taste of Sage

This project kindly funded by Greggs allowed NETA members to try music-making at Sage Gateshead. Administrators, music leaders, and their volunteers, were trained by us in aphasia and supported conversation. The project eventually led to the establishment of The Magenta Singers.  This is provided by Sage Gateshead for anyone in the region with acquired aphasia. NETA gives support / training when needed. Catering, front of house and music students have all become more aware of aphasia as a result. The singers perform regularly in public and their newfound confidence has supported  them over 2 changes of singing leader.

Quotes from users

·         Given something back to us

·         Doing something different

·         Something bringing us out

·         Steel pans – hadn’t got a clue. Worked our brains hard

·         Brilliant! Really enjoyed it all

·         Very good experience – very good tutor(s)

·         It was very interesting in the Sage. Very merry. Grateful

·         Good people that are leading the group

And from providers:

I thought the whole programme was great and a fantastic experience.  Thank you for making it possible.  It has inspired me and I'm looking forward to trying some new music activities.   It was also good getting to know some NETA members a bit better - they are an amazing group of people.

2013 Feelings Count

This event, funded by Newcastle University’s Institute for Social Renewal, was to promote a dialogue between service providers and users on the topic of living with aphasia. At the event, Speech and Language Therapists from across the North East region met people with aphasia and their families to discuss provision of information, support and training for relatives of people with aphasia. The  focus for the discussion was the outcome of a professional context project by Shona Leenhouts.

The event demonstrated the value of service user consultation as a lever for change and provided information to clinicians to quantify care in this area. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. For example, “Bringing SLT and relatives and aphasic sufferers together to discuss openly”; “all contributing to the same end”; “Getting some insight into the way you (service providers) work.” Relatives felt that they had been listened to, and could contribute to future care. Providers saw care from the relatives’ viewpoint. They planned to change practice and consult further. Although meeting relatives’ needs was still seen as vulnerable. Delegates with aphasia felt included, and that they both contributed and received information. On- going links with NHS providers exploring quality of advice/support for relatives followed. The audit checklist is accessible through the link above. The project led eventually to a review publication (Hilton et al 2014: Information, support and training needs of relatives of people with aphasia: Evidence from the literature, Aphasiology, DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2014.906562) and a poster presentation at an international conference.

2015 Travelling art show

Funded by FMS_NICAP, this project took exhibitions of the work done by the NETA art group to locations across the North East. The aims of the project were to

•       Target communities where stroke disease is more prevalent

•       Give information about stroke - prevention, services, research initiatives

•       Raise aphasia awareness and give Top Tips for supporting communication

•       Model the benefits of creative arts practice

•       Challenge NETA members with more organisational and public engagement roles

•       Challenge Fine Art undergraduates to deliver effectively into the wider project working in a diverse team

The project involved NETA members and undergraduate Fine Art students from planning to hanging. NETA members hosted the 9 exhibitions and engaged with nearly 600 visitors. The public gave very positive feedback:

•       Very good. I've learnt some valuable information and the exhibition was fantastic.

•       Aphasia was something I'd never heard about - found the information really informative and I've took some 'FAST' cards to share with others.

•       You have created awareness and a better understanding of aphasia and stroke.

•       We all need a wake-up call before it's too late.

•       It's good to see what other aphasia sufferers can achieve.

•       So positive to see such wonderful work. I love a "can do" attitude!! So interesting, thank you.

2016  ARUG development project

Funded by NUIA to develop the existing Aphasia Research User Group (ARUG) into a sustainable service for researchers involved with aphasia. Over 5 meetings, around 10 people with aphasia set up the process by which ARUG would operate and a menu for a ready-made service to meet researchers’ user consultation needs. The group identified criteria for participation, training requirements and format for promotion material.