Most NHS services look set to miss Sunday’s deadline for introducing a new Standard that could save the lives of deaf people.
The Deaf Health Charity SignHealth says it is concerned that services have not done more to meet the deadline. From Sunday, deaf people should have better access to health services. This includes sign language interpreters being provided and patients communicating with services online and via SMS.
Many deaf people are currently forced to walk to their GP surgery to make an appointment because they cannot use the telephone. When they do get to see a doctor they are often told no interpreter can be provided. They then have to struggle by passing written notes or trying to lip-read.
SignHealth says this second-rate access is part of the reason for poorer health among Deaf people whose preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL). Without proper communication, illnesses go undiagnosed and are not managed well.
The charity’s clinical director, Dr Andrew Alexander, said: “Most hearing people would be outraged if they had to walk to their GP’s to book an appointment and then found the doctor couldn’t communicate with them.
“And yet, in 2016, this is still the experience for many deaf people. I’m disappointed the NHS hasn’t done more to meet the deadline. Most NHS services we have spoken to are only at the planning stage. SignHealth will be doing all it can to make sure failing services catch-up quickly.”
All NHS services in England should meet the new Accessible Information Standard from Sunday. The Standard makes it clear to services and patients what should already be provided under the Equality Act. Deaf people, blind people, and anyone with a disability that affects communication, should now be able to give and get information as easily as anyone else.
1) Case studies with examples of poor access are available.
2) More details on the Accessible Information Standard can be found at http://www.signhealth.org.uk/the-accessible-information-standard/