At The Bridge Centre, Harrow HA3 5BD on Saturday 6th June 2015.
The event was opened by Councillor Georgia Weston with a brief introduction in BSL and explained about her role. Much to the applauses from the members, Councillor Georgia explained how she understood the issues deaf people face in accessing to health services and highlighted some of the challenges eg using children of deaf parents as interpreters is not appropriate especially in medical situation – she shared her experiences of working in hospital previously and was taken back to find that such practices still continues today despite the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 superseded by the Equality Act 2010 and the public duty for health services to provide BSL interpreters.
Councillor Georgia then introduced a guest speaker – Tanvir Ahmed, Senior Campaigner Officer of a deaf charity: ‘Action on Hearing loss’. Tanvir explained about his role and the key campaign: “Our Health in Your Hands”which has been launched for the Deaf community.With the campaign, it explains that you have a right under law to request an interpreter in a healthcare setting like a hospital and a GP surgery when you need one. It also explains that you should have an interpreter who has the proper qualifications to do the job. It will help you complain if you don’t get a good service.
It is much to the members huge disappointment to find that Northwick Park Hospital did not send a representative to explain what they are doing in term of deaf people’s access to hospital.
Instead, the members were invited to ask questions and share their views. Many of them expressed concerns about Harrow GP Surgeries and Northwick Park Hospital are rated as extremely poor in term of deaf people’s access to their services and highlighted that the top concerns are the lack of awareness of the deaf patients’ needs. Many of the members gave examples of staff not aware of how to book BSL interpreter, lack of deaf awareness by asking interpreter to arrive either too early or too late, which means deaf people on arrival for their appointment, only to find interpreter had to go when it is the deaf person’s turn to go to meet the GP. This is extremely concerning especially where there is significant delay in waiting to be seen and had a knock-on effect onto the scheduled appointment time. In some cases, interpreters were not booked despite deaf people’s initial request well in advance of their appointment. Lack of communication and awareness caused unnecessary effect onto the deaf person’s emotional well-being and subsequently resulted in breakdown of communication and contributing to patient’s stress. This in turn would have knock on effect onto the patient and his/her families.
Asif Iqbal MBE, President of HUDC echoed the members’ plights and explained: “This is simply unacceptable and thus putting deaf patients at significant risks. It is extremely vital for Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group and Northwick Park Hospital to work closely with HUDC and find ways to improve services for deaf patients. This would also include more staff to be trained in deaf awareness and ensure deaf people are treated equally and to feel more inclusive. At present the services is not meeting deaf patients’ needs at all.
I also wish to highlight some findings of Action on Hearing Loss’ survey that was conducted in April 2012, extracted as follow:
This document reports the top line findings of a survey conducted by a group of organisations who support deaf people during April 2012 to explore the experiences of British Sign Language (BSL) users when accessing healthcare. Respondents were asked about their experiences of accessing and using sign language interpreters in healthcare settings (both GP and hospital settings).
The results are based on responses from 305 people who identified that they use BSL as their first or preferred language.
We are concerned that British Sign Language users are not being provided with fully qualified interpreters in healthcare settings. It is imperative that Sign Language Interpreters used by healthcare providers are registered with the National Register of Communication Professionals (NRCPD). This ensures that the interpreter is qualified to the correct standard to enable accurate communication of medical information.
In order to find out more about the standard of interpretation that BSL users have experienced, we asked BSL users about problems they have had understanding the sign language interpreter assigned to them in healthcare settings. For the purpose of the survey ‘sign language interpreter’ is used to define anyone attending an appointment with the aim to provide translation.
Evidence highlighting problems with the standard of communication support provided in GP and hospital settings:
* 36% of respondents have made a complaint about a sign language interpreter because they could not understand them, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
* 48% of respondents have been unhappy with the standard of sign language interpreter provided at a health appointment, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
* 41% of respondents have left a health appointment feeling confused about their medical
condition, because they couldn’t understand the sign language interpreter, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
* 29% of respondents have been confused about how to take their medication, because they couldn’t understand the sign language interpreter, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
Evidence highlighting problems with the booking procedures for British Sign Language interpreters in GP and hospital settings:
* 68% of respondents have asked for a sign language interpreter to be booked for a GP appointment but did not get one. The equivalent figure for hospital appointments is 66%.
* 84% of respondents have felt frustrated after a health appointment because no sign language interpreter was provided.
* 67% of respondents were not sure their GP surgery would be able to book a registered sign language interpreter for them. When asked about hospitals, 61% of respondents were not sure hospital staff would be able to book them a registered sign language interpreter.
* 74% of respondents have had to remind GP staff about their communication needs, while 80% of respondent have had to remind hospital staff.
Evidence highlighting the problems that occur when no British Sign Language interpreter is provided at a health appointment:
* 57% of respondents have been confused about how to take their medication because no sign language interpreter was provided.
* 10% of respondents said they had definitely taken medication incorrectly, because no sign language interpreter was provided.
* 61% of respondents have put off going to a health appointment because they were worried about communication problems.
Evidence highlighting the problems that can occur when a friend or family member does the interpreting:
* 65% of respondents have felt embarrassed because a family member or friend is doing the interpreting.
* 65% of respondents said they were either very or fairly worried that sensitive information about their health condition may have been left out in order to protect their feelings, when a family member or friend has interpreted for them.
* 15% of respondents have used a friend of family member who is under 16 years old to interpret for them.”
In light of the above report, HUDC is calling health services to consider the above facts and to ensure that they comply with the following action points:
1) Please refrain from using a ‘child’ or family interpreter to assist deaf patient within the NHS. Also in line with the Care Act 2014, accessibility for all is vital to enable deaf people to be involved, looking at preventative services and promoting well-beings of individuals and their carers. Such delay with interpreter bookings effectively means unnecessary delays for the deaf patient and as a result, has a knock on effect onto their health/ well-being.
2) Increase awareness of how to book the BSL interpreter/ provision of appropriate communication support to deaf patients.
3) Increase deaf awareness training should be made available to all staff who have contact with deaf and hard of hearing people!
4) Visual information display should be at every GP’s surgery which would alert deaf people.
5) Most importantly, listen to deaf people’s view and ensure appropriate communication professionals are aware and ensure deaf people’s views are well represented across the board.