Deaf health campaigner Ian Crimond’s Deaf Access Research Group has recently researched health providers, GP surgeries, out-of-hours GP services and the experience of Deaf users of those services in Wales. Deaf access to GPs is a growing issue, since last week, research suggested that 28% of deaf people left their doctor unsure of their diagnosis.
Crimond’s research focuses on the first contact Deaf people make with a service – booking an appointment. The aim is to examine to what extent service providers in Wales are complying with the relevant sections of the Equality Act, specifically those referring to the need to make “ reasonable adjustments “ in order to access a particular service. The research looked at hundreds of GP surgeries, and found that 90% of them did not offer an alternative method of booking an appointment (other than using the phone). We interviewed him to find out more.
Tell us about you. Who are you, and how long have you been deaf?
I first became aware of my deafness while I was at University in the late 70′s and unfortunately I failed my medical for my first teaching job. I had a second medical and this time the doctor was much older, deaf and from the same part of Scotland as myself, so he just passed me. Once you pass, the teaching establishment never test you again!
Hearing aids are not suitable for my type of deafness and they just don’t work. In 2000 I retired from university teaching and moved to the Lincolnshire coast. I soon discovered that if I needed to see a GP, because I can’t hear on the phone, I had to go to the surgery to make an appointment and then go back for the appointment itself.
I was advised that my surgery and Primary Care Trust (PCT) were in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act (now the Equality Act) because of their failure to make reasonable adjustments/provide alternative methods of accessing a service. So we went to court. In week one, the PCT compensated me and bought me a screen phone. In week two, the GP surgery also settled.
How was the group set up?
I set up the Deaf Access Research Group (DARG) in January 2012. From a psychological perspective people pay more attention to the name DARG than had it just been my name!
How many of these kinds of surveys have you done?
The Wales report was my first research report as I could just about mange researching 700 GP surgeries. England has just under 9000 and Scotland has 1100, so it was easier to focus on Wales. I also have many Welsh deaf colleagues.
What is the most shocking piece of information in the survey, in your view?
I think the most shocking fact was the sheer scale of the problem. The fact that so many GP surgeries are ignoring the Equality Act and giving deaf people a really bad deal. I also had records of over 1500 people who had had problems with health services, via emails, forums and internet messageboards. That drove me to do the study – especially the story of one woman who told me she had sat by her husband’s bedside as he died.
How does it make you feel about the Equality Act?
In my view the Equality Act is simply not working when so many NHS bodies ignore it and very very few deaf people can either afford to take legal action or have the knowledge of how to go about it. I think the Equality Act’s sections on goods and services needs to be part of criminal law not civil law, and I really believe that more and more deaf people need to campaign or take legal action on this issue.
NHS Direct, and out of hours GP services are all phone only. That is a national disgrace.
What’s next for DARG?
DARG has now been joined by another campaigner from Wales and an IT specialist, and a few more think tank colleagues are helping to supply information.
I am just about to start our second study into the out of hours GP service in England , but as so many are run by private companies who are refusing Freedom of Information requests for data and information, it will be some time before this study is completed.
Far far too many out of hours services go by different names – such as ‘urgent care units,’ ‘walk in service,’ ‘minor accident unit’ and so on. A large number have been disguised behind A&E units, so its hard to track some of them down. The Quality Care Commission have shocked me by telling me how many out of hours private providers have failed their tests.
To download the report, go to: http://scribd.com/doc/115983905/Darg-Final
You can now follow DARG on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FredMallard1<
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