How SignHealth have been working to give Deaf people interpreting support in healthcare – and how you can help (BSL)

Posted on July 23, 2014



This is a response to Andy Palmer’s article ‘ GPs should have access to video interpreting or STTR on the road. As standard’ from Paul Welsh, SignHealth’s Communications Director.

It’s a sad truth that most Deaf people will have a story just like Andy’s, and it really is time that it never happened again.

He gives a powerful description of standing by the bed of a sick relative and doing the work of an interpreter, when all he really want to do is be with his loved one. I bet you’ve got at least one story of your own.

To watch this article in BSL, click play below.

For years it’s seemed like there’s been no change, that Deaf people are just being ignored.

Our phones are now so smart, and newly invented tablets are so portable, that there is no reason we can’t all have an interpreter in our pocket whenever we are at the doctors’ or hospital.

It’s something SignHealth has been working towards for years, and in the last few months it’s really moved a long way.

We’re making progress. And you can help too.

For a couple of years now the NHS in Scotland have provided a BSL online interpreting service to contact their out-of-hours service NHS24. We are in negotiations with NHS111 in England to do the same.

We’re excited that in a couple of weeks we’ll be announcing a partnership with an online service that turns speech to text using an app on your smartphone or tablet.

They’ll be offering a free trial to all Deaf people, and an extra long trial to those who sign up with SignHealth.

In a couple of months there will be new apps for our InterpreterNow service too, making it even easier to use in doctors surgeries and hospitals.

It isn’t meant to replace qualified interpreters, it’s for those times when there isn’t time to get an interpreter. Exactly the sort of situation Andy describes so well.

Those times when you step in and interpret because you know there’s not going to be an interpreter at the bedside any time soon. When your heart tells you that any interpreting is better than none at all.

When Andy talks about putting tablets into ambulances you might think he’s talking about a world a long way in the future, but he’s not. We’re already persuading a Police force to do that in every patrol car. We’ve got them thinking about offering their 101 service in sign language too.

Think about that for a moment. Wow, what a different world it could be.

These days the “NHS budget of billions” that Andy talked about is split into lots of smaller chunks, to be spent by small groups of doctors’ surgeries in the way they see fit.

So, as well as trying to persuade the NHS nationwide to give us services like NHS111 and 999 through online interpreting, we need to work on each doctors’ surgery too.

You can do your bit to make it happen. Hundreds of doctors and hospitals are already signed up for the InterpreterNow service. Check with your own, and if they aren’t already registered ask them to to it.

Our Sick Of It report showed that most doctors and health workers think they do a good job of communicating with Deaf people. Deaf people know that’s not true, but it means that medical professionals won’t start using these new tools unless Deaf people push them to do it.

The Geeks have made the technology, the phone companies have perfected the wi-fi, SignHealth’s InterpreterNow has perfected the software … now you can do your bit too.

Tell your doctor and hospital about the InterpreterNow service, and ask them to sign-up, it’s free for them to join it and cheap for them to use it. They just need a little push. And if they say no, give us a shout and we’ll shove them a little bit harder.

We’re determined to put an interpreter in every Deaf person’s pocket, and we’re getting there quickly.

These are going to be exciting times for Deaf people, empowering times.

By Paul Welsh, Communications Director of SignHealth – the home of InterpreterNow

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