Deaf News: Deaf woman’s complaint against GP who wouldn’t provide interpreter upheld by ombudsman (BSL)

Posted on February 23, 2015

A Deaf woman who uses BSL has had her complaint against her GP upheld by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The woman, who is from Northern Europe and is a BSL user, was provided with an interpreter until 2011, when the funding for the interpreter was suddenly withdrawn.

The woman was told that instead, she would be given longer appointment times and that staff would communicate with her through written notes.

Watch the case summary in BSL:

The woman, who was pregnant at the time, complained about this decision, explaining that she could not understand written English and said she had left appointments not knowing how to take her medication.

The practice then told the woman that it was the Primary Care Trust’s responsibility to fund interpreters, which the PCT disagreed with, saying it was the practice’s responsibility.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman says in its case summary:

The Practice failed to take into account its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 as a service provider.

The Practice is required to take reasonable steps to make sure that, as a disabled person, Mrs E is not put at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled.

The Practice tried to make some adjustments for Mrs E, such as giving her longer appointments. However, because it did not take necessary steps to understand the way in which she communicated, its attempts were, on the whole, inappropriate and ineffective.

The Practice wrongly concluded that Mrs E should be able to communicate through written English. She cannot, because she is a Deaf BSL user. In failing to recognise both of these important facts, the Practice has reached incorrect conclusions about its duties under the Equality Act 2010, which has led to its failure properly to consider whether the provision of a sign language interpreter is a reasonable adjustment under the Act.

It also says:

The Practice and the NHS England Local Area Team (which took over the PCT’s responsibilities when the NHS restructured) acknowledged and apologised for their failings and paid the woman £3,000. They put together an action plan to show how they will meet Mrs E’s needs in future, and they undertook to do the same for other patients with disabilities.

Read the case study here:

Find out how to make a complaint to the NHS in England in BSL through this video:

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Posted in: deaf news