Access to services is a common barrier faced daily by many deaf people. Something simple, like seeing a GP or attending hospital appointments can cause difficulties for many deaf people.
The main barrier faced is often that of communication. An all-too-common example are health issues, where deaf people could be misdiagnosed or receive the wrong medication due to poor communication. This is often because symptoms cannot be fully explained without appropriate and professional communication support. The result of a lack of good communication can and does have very negative effects on deaf people’s physical and mental health. These experiences could be greatly improved through effective communication, knowledge and techniques and would open up services currently widely available to all, such as support, counselling and advocacy groups.
As a GP practice it is crucial that we make our surgery accessible, so that people who are deaf or have hearing loss can contact our services, communicate well during appointments and fully understand the information we give them. It is crucial that we do all we can to help our patients by meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the national guidelines and quality standards aiming to improve accessibility.
Provide a range of contact methods
People with hearing loss may find it difficult or impossible to use the telephone to book an appointment, order repeat prescriptions or receive test results. They may benefit from other contact methods, such as:
- online booking
- SMS text
- Relay UK (which has replaced Text Relay) – typed messages are relayed to the other caller via an operator
- video relay – conversation is relayed through a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter using video.
People with hearing loss may also benefit from visual display systems and flashing or vibrating pagers that let them know when it’s their turn to be seen. Working hearing loops should be in place for people who use hearing aids. If a patient requires communication support, this should be available when they arrive. At William Hopwood Surgery we provide the following for deaf patients:
- Interpreting services
- Hearing Loop
- SMS service
- Practice Website
- Practice Email
- NHS App
- Online communication Via PATCHS
Provide communication support during appointments
Ask patients if they need help to communicate well and/or understand information. Once recorded, make sure these communication and information needs are highly visible or linked to an electronic alert on the records, to prompt staff members to take the appropriate action when that patient books an appointment.
For example, patients with hearing loss should be able to book a longer appointment to make sure there’s time for effective communication. Remember, people with hearing loss benefit from different types of communication support.
- Foster good deaf awareness: staff should keep in mind simple communication tips such as speaking clearly, facing the person while speaking to them, and not obscuring their lip movements.
- Provide hearing loop systems that help people who use hearing aids on the hearing loop setting (formerly known as the ‘T’ setting) hear sounds more clearly over background noise. Read more about hearing loops
- Provide registered communication professionals who help people with hearing loss communicate and/or understand spoken English. Put procedures in places so that communication professionals can be booked in advance – you can’t always secure them at short notice. Family and friends must not be used to interpret, unless the patient explicitly asks for them.
- Publish an accessible communication and information policy, in accessible formats, to let your patients known about the support available.
- Enable patients to give feedback about your services in an accessible way.
DeafblindUK National Centre for Deafblindness, John and Lucille van Geest Place Cygnet Road, Hampton, Peterborough, PE7 8FD Telephone/textphone: 01733 358 100, fax: 01733 358 356, email: [email protected], website: www.deafblind.org.uk
The National Deaf Children’s Society Ground Floor South, Castle House, 37 – 45 Paul Street, London EC2A 4LS. Telephone: 020 7490 8656, textphone: 020 7490 8656, fax: 020 7251 5020, email: [email protected], website: www.ndcs.org.uk