STRICTLY EMBARGOED 00:01 Tuesday 25 March 2014 (Press conference 09:15 at Central Hall Westminster)
Bad healthcare costs NHS £30million a year and puts
Deaf people at risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes.
Thousands of Deaf people are suffering from undiagnosed, potentially life-threatening conditions, because of unintentional neglect by the NHS. And it’s costing the health service £30 million a year.
A five year research study by the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth and the University of Bristol shows that doctors are failing to spot problems with the health of Deaf people on a frightening scale, and when they do diagnose conditions there’s a shocking level of ineffective treatment.
The researchers say it means a likelihood of reduced life expectancy in Deaf people.
The Sick Of It report shows that Deaf people are twice as likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure as the rest of the population, and if they have been diagnosed it’s three times more likely that their treatment isn’t working.
More than half of the Deaf people with heart disease aren’t being treated properly, and the same is true of diabetes. Deaf people with high cholesterol are half as likely as hearing people to be on medication to bring it under control.
“This is unjust, unfair and unacceptable”, says Dr Andrew Alexander, SignHealth’s medical director, “there’s clearly no intention to treat Deaf patients badly, but doctors are not doing the good job we think we are, and we’re failing a whole community, putting them at risk of heart attacks, strokes and other conditions.” !
“Sick Of It” identifies the causes. Doctors surgeries and hospitals are not accessible to Deaf patients, who find it difficult to make appointments and who are often left stranded in waiting rooms by staff who call them by shouting out their names. There’s a failure to supply sign-language interpreters for consultations which means the doctor doesn’t understand the problem and can’t explain any treatment. And there is a chronic lack of health information in British Sign Language.
The researchers found that the NHS Choices website has around 900 health videos to help people make healthy choices and take some control over their own health, only 10 of those videos have sign language interpretation.
“There are really simple things we can do to make a huge improvement”, says Steve Powell, the CEO of SignHealth. “It’s shocking that in this internet enabled age 45% of Deaf patients have to walk into their doctor’s surgery to make an appointment, and they’re forced to communicate in ways that lead to errors and misunderstandings”.
SignHealth have drawn up Prescriptions For Change, simple steps which can be taken by health workers, NHS management and government, to improve healthcare for Deaf people. The report is published by SignHealth at www.sick-of-it.com.
The “Sick Of It” report will be launched at a press conference at 9.15 am on 25th March 2014 at Westminster Central Hall (also known as Methodist Central Hall). It will be followed by a day long conference on Deaf health, which will discuss the report, hear from Deaf patients, and look at solutions.
The opening keynote will be from Stephen Dorrell, former Secretary of State for Health and chair of the Health Select Committee.
Case studies and copies of the report are available on request.
Dr Andrew Alexander and Steve Powell are available for interview.
Please contact Paul Welsh, SignHealth’s Director of Communications, on 01494 687600 or
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The research was carried out by SignHealth and academics at the University of Bristol, funded by a grant from the National Lottery.
Figures quoted for Deaf people are from SignHealth’s research, published in the Sick Of It report. Comparisons with the general population are largely drawn from the Health Survey for England.
62% of Deaf patients who were being treated for high blood pressure still did not have it under control, compared with 20% in the general population. Only one in three Deaf people with high cholesterol is on medication, compared with more than two in three hearing people with the same problem.
The use of the word Deaf with a capital D is a convention which identifies those people who were born deaf or lost their hearing before they learned to talk. Typically Deaf people use sign language as their first language.