Deaf News: Son who had to tell Deaf father that he would die fears nothing will change after York health report released

Posted on January 21, 2014

Matt Dixon, who was forced to tell his deaf father that he was going to die of cancer, has said that he feels nothing will change in the wake of a new report into how Deaf people access healthcare in York.

The report by Healthwatch, an organisation that represents the views of patients when accessing healthcare, reviewed the experiences and services available to Deaf people that use sign language living in York.

The report concludes that not enough is being done and that GP’s and hospitals are breaking the law by not providing communication support. They make a series of recommendations aimed at improving the situation but Mr Dixon, who is from York, is not expecting much change. 

“I think it’s brilliant that an organisation like Healthwatch has taken the time to actually approach the deaf community of York and actually take direct feedback.” He said.

“I think it’s an excellent start. I sincerely hope that they replicate this in other areas of the UK but sadly I think the result would be exactly the same. I’m not confident that anything will change unless this type of reporting goes national. It feels like deaf issues just get ignored for now.”

The problem of deaf people not being fully engaged in their own healthcare is not just confined to York. Yesterday, the Guardian reported on the story of how two London deaf parents were denied an interpreter for the birth of their child and had no way of communicating with doctors about their baby’s condition during a week-long stay in hospital following complications.

This follows a string of examples where deaf people’s right to communication had apparently been denied, including a man being operated on without full informed consent being given; a patient left in bed for days without speaking to anyone and a deaf man dying after hospital staff confused his deafness for dementia.

Healthwatch consulted with both patients, GP’s surgeries and hospitals in York after the story of Mr Dixon’s father was published and other deaf people complained. The report conclusion reads:

“Access to health and social care services for Deaf people is unsatisfactory and so Deaf people are disadvantaged. This is likely to be in breach of the duties outlined in the Equality Act 2010, which requires service providers to avoid unlawful discrimination and to make reasonable adjustments. Under the Equality Act, it is considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for organisations to book appropriate communication support.

“Putting Deaf people at a disadvantage when accessing health and social care services could also be seen as a failure to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998 – in particular the right to be free of inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Among the recommendations, Healthwatch calls on GP’s and hospitals to:

·         Provide deaf awareness training for all staff

·         Promote interpreting services

·         Review how appointments are booked

·         Hold a walk-in service for Deaf people with interpreters provided

Mr Dixon, who is a trainee sign language interpreter and campaigns for the rights of deaf people, fears that the report’s strong words may go unheeded by decision makers.

“I just hope that the NHS actually take stock of the feedback that the deaf community are giving them. Deaf people have been ignored for far too long. There needs to be a massive shake up within the NHS. It’s not just deaf sign language users who are being affected – it’s the whole deaf community.”

Read the report by clicking here:

 By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor

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