The NHS has a new Chief Executive. His name is Simon Stevens.
SignHealth‘s Chief Executive, Steve Powell, has written a letter to him, explaining the barriers Deaf people have when accessing healthcare.
He asks Mr Stevens to read our Deaf health report Sick Of It. He explains that Deaf people receive poor treatment for their illnesses, that interpreters are not provided and there is not enough information for Deaf people in BSL.
Steve’s Letter in BSL
“I’d like to congratulate you on your appointment, and welcome the comments you made on your first day in the job. I’m writing to you and sharing the letter with the Deaf community in the hope that together we can begin a collective discussion which leads to change.
It is encouraging to see you recognise that “perhaps a fifth of the health service budget is currently going on conditions that might be preventable, and if we don’t get a better grip on prevention then that is going to show up as lots of diabetes, heart conditions, and other things”.
The Sick Of It report by SignHealth was published late last month, the first large-scale study of the health of Deaf people ever carried out.
That report showed that Deaf people have much higher rates of missed diagnosis than the rest of the population, and when conditions are treated they are also far more likely to be receiving ineffective treatment.
High blood pressure is a case in point. Deaf people are twice as likely as hearing people to have high blood pressure and not to know about it. Those who have been diagnosed are three times more likely not to have it under control.
The NHS is unintentionally neglecting Deaf people. Access is made difficult, interpreters are not provided to ensure effective and accurate consultations, and health messages are not offered in ways that Deaf people can access them.
We calculate that it is costing the NHS £30 million a year.
Many of the changes needed to help Deaf people will also benefit the population generally, so beginning with this area of acute need will serve the NHS and its patients well.
Can I please urge you to read our report, and to act on its simple and cost effective recommendations, urgently. Your intentions are admirable, but intentions alone won’t improve the health of Deaf people.
Yours in hope,
CEO, The Deaf Health Charity SignHealth“