The Deaf healthcare charity SignHealth are today releasing the results of a five year study into the health of Deaf people, which they say shows that thousands of Deaf people are suﬀering from undiagnosed, potentially life-threatening conditions, because of unintentional neglect by the NHS.
The charity also say that this is costing the health service £30 million a year, while putting Deaf people at risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The study, which SignHealth have carried out with the University of Bristol, following a National Lottery grant, shows that doctors are failing to spot problems with the health of Deaf people on a frightening scale, and when they do diagnose conditions there’s a shocking level of ineﬀective treatment.
The researchers say it means a likelihood of reduced life expectancy in Deaf people.
The Sick Of It report shows that Deaf people are twice as likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure as the rest of the population, and if they have been diagnosed it’s three times more likely that their treatment isn’t working.
More than half of Deaf people with heart disease aren’t being treated properly, and the same is true of diabetes. Deaf people with high cholesterol are half as likely as hearing people to be on medication to bring it under control.
“This is unjust, unfair and unacceptable”, says Dr Andrew Alexander, SignHealth’s medical director, “there’s clearly no intention to treat Deaf patients badly, but doctors are not doing the good job we think we are, and we’re failing a whole community, putting them at risk of heart attacks, strokes and other conditions.”
Sign Health say that “Sick Of It” identiﬁes the causes. Doctors surgeries and hospitals are not accessible to Deaf patients, who ﬁnd it diﬃcult to make appointments and who are often left stranded in waiting rooms by staﬀ who call them by shouting out their names.
There’s a failure to supply sign-language interpreters for consultations which means the doctor doesn’t understand the problem and can’t explain any treatment. And there is a chronic lack of health information in British Sign Language.
The researchers found that the NHS Choices website has around 900 health videos to help people make healthy choices and take some control over their own health, yet only 10 of those videos have sign language interpretation.
“There are really simple things we can do to make a huge improvement”, says Steve Powell, the CEO of SignHealth. “It’s shocking that in this internet enabled age 45% of Deaf patients have to walk into their doctor’s surgery to make an appointment, and they’re forced to communicate in ways that lead to errors and misunderstandings”.
SignHealth have drawn up Prescriptions For Change, simple steps which can be taken by health workers, NHS management and government, to improve healthcare for Deaf people.
The report is published by SignHealth at www.sick-of-it..com.
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