Deaf News: NHS consulting on new communication rules for deaf patients

Posted on August 15, 2014

NHS England have revealed this week that they are consulting on a range of measures to firstly take account of patient’s communication needs and then take steps to provide information to patients in the most appropriate way. If adopted, the ‘Accessible Information Standard’ will mean hospitals and GPs must provide communication support like sign language interpreters or speech to text reporting.

During the winter, NHS England received over 1200 submissions from patients to help develop the standard and now patients and organisations are being asked to give feedback on the proposals; a move that has been welcomed by deaf health campaigners after a succession of deaf health horror stories over the past 18-months.

Sian Balsom, manager of Healthwatch York, who have been at the forefront of campaigning for improvements in NHS communication for deaf patients, said: “We’re delighted that this is now being looked at nationally – a consultation on this is long overdue. We are also pleased to have played a part in highlighting the overwhelming evidence that Deaf people who use British Sign Language are left without access to health and social care services.”

Matt Dixon, the son of a deaf man from York who was forced to tell his own dad he was going to die, also welcomed the news. Mr Dixon has been at the centre of the campaign for improved access to healthcare for deaf people following the death of his father, Philip.

Philip Dixon: Not given an interpreter

He said: “This is brilliant news, it’s definitely a big step in the right direction, access to information is a basic human right, common sense tells you that deaf people need the communication methods adapted to enable effective communication, the NHS has a duty of care to make sure deaf people leave appointments understanding everything.

“Deaf people have a duty to themselves to look after their own health. How can they do that if they are only understanding bits of the conversation? It’s fantastic news and a big thumbs up from me and my dad.”

Sign Health, a charity solely devoted to improving the health of deaf people, will be releasing a BSL video next week outlining the consultation. A spokesperson today said:

“The standard aims to establish a clear and consistent framework, and provide direction to the health and adult social care system, such that disabled patients, service users, carers and parents receive accessible information, such as correspondence in easy read, braille or via email, and communication support such as a British Sign Language interpreter.

“Following engagement activity to inform the development of the standard, a consultation has been launched. People with an interest in accessible information and those who will be required to implement the standard are invited to comment on the draft standard. This includes patients, service users and carers, health and care professionals and organisations, voluntary organisations, patient groups and communication professionals.

“Please read the consultation document and tell us your views using our online survey, or visit our website to access information about the draft standard and the questions in an alternative format.”

The move to implement the Accessible Information Standard is the third piece of good news for deaf campaigners this year. Firstly, Amazon / LoveFilm announced they would be subtitling online video content following a campaign and then deaf workers earned a temporary reprieve from changes to the Access to Work scheme.

The consultation closes on 9th November.

By Andy Palmer

Andy is Chairman of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society and teaches sign language in primary schools. He is also the former manager of Action on Hearing Loss’s Information Line and Customer Service Departments. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP

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