A mental health service for Deaf people has been forced to cut much-needed staff due to lack of funding, just as the coalition government announces ambitious plans to invest millions making mental health and physical health equal priorities.
£1.5 million has been invested in training specialist therapists working in British Sign Language, but now a programme of redundancies has begun. The demand for the service is still there, but changes to the NHS structure and commissioning mean that funding has dried up.
BSL Healthy Minds from SignHealth offers mental health therapies to Deaf people in sign language, where that is their first language.
Using a therapist fluent in sign language is cheaper than adding an interpreter into a session with a hearing therapist, and more effective too. Clear communication between therapist and patient is essential for therapy to work.
Success rates with therapy in sign language are 75%, compared to 44% for the hearing population. The service is better, cheaper, and essential.
“It is fantastic news, and really welcome, that there are plans to invest millions in making treatment for mental illness an equal priority to physical illness”, says Steve Powell, Chief Executive of The Deaf Health Charity SignHealth, “but where is the equality for Deaf people? The need for the service was accepted when the NHS funded the training of Deaf therapists using sign language. The effectiveness has been proved. Yet the change in commissioning procedures means the service is now slowing dying”.
The charity are urging the health minister Norman Lamb to take urgent action to bring real equality and save the only dedicated service for deaf people. They say that the lives of Deaf people depend on it.
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