Deaf News: Call for communication cards for BSL users to go nationwide

Posted on October 19, 2017

New communication cards for patients who are deaf British sign language users in
Gloucestershire are going down so well, there are now calls from deaf people across
England and Wales for the cards to be made available elsewhere in the UK with nearly 1800 people signing a petition calling for their use.

Local deaf charity, Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA), have been working in
partnership with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to create the cards for deaf patients, whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL). The purpose of the wallet-sized plastic cards is to help identify patients immediately as deaf and that there is a need for communications support. It also includes the 24-hour-a-day contact details for GDA, so that medical staff know how to book a BSL interpreter.

Although initially introduced for hospital appointments only, the cards are making such an impact that Gloucestershire Care Services and the 2Gether Trust have also come on board.

The Deaf communication cards are the result of close liaison between Gloucestershire
Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the local Deaf Community, supported by GDA. There
is clear evidence which shows that deaf patients are often unable to access clinical
services and take part in health consultations in a way hearing people often take for
granted. Studies have shown this ‘inadvertent negligence’ leads to poorer health
outcomes. (source: SignHealth ‘Sick of It’ 2014 report)

GDA’s Chief Executive, Jenny Hopkins said “We are enormously grateful to
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for putting their trust in deaf patients to know what works for them. Initial objections to the cards centred around the idea that an ID card somehow stigmatises the deaf patient, but this is a hearing person’s false perception.

Deaf people feel no stigma about being deaf. However, because it is so easy mistake
deafness for other conditions, including dementia or learning difficulties, it is critical that in a medical situation particularly, it is recognised immediately and communication support is put in place promptly.”

GDA’s social media pages letting deaf people know about the deaf communication cards attracted more than 10,000 responses in 24 hours. GDA is now campaigning for NHS England and NHS Improvement to ask all commissioners and providers to introduce similar cards within their areas.

Sign the petition here.

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