The research which SignHealth commissioned for the Sick Of It report has been published in two medical journals.
BMJ Open and the BJGP (British Journal of General Practice) are professional publications for the medical profession. They both carry the results of the research, which revealed shocking inequality in the treatment of Deaf people.
A summary of the research was published as the Sick Of It report last year, and has been publicised widely to the Deaf community.
“To reach the medical community it’s important to provide peer-reviewed scientific evidence, and the BMJ Open paper does that. It presents the medical results of the Deaf Health Study in scientific detail”, says SignHealth’s Medical Director, Dr Andrew Alexander. “The BJGP paper is a much shorter, easier to read article. It presents the results on Deaf people’s access to healthcare from the Deaf Health Study. It also gives some simple practical guidance to GPs on how to treat their Deaf patients better. That’s called the Ten Top Tips section”.
The papers just published show that Deaf people are twice as likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure as the rest of the population. If they have been diagnosed, it’s three times more likely that their treatment isn’t working.
More than half of 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. The causes include a lack of interpreters at consultations, inadequate booking procedures, and almost non-existent health information in sign language. Poor communication is leading to missed diagnoses and ineffective treatment.
“This is unintentional neglect, likely to lead to shortened lives”, says Steve Powell, Chief Executive of the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth. “A basic lack of knowledge on the part of health professionals is leaving a vulnerable community with inadequate healthcare”.
Health economists have estimated that the poor diagnosis and treatment are costing the NHS £30 million a year. SignHealth have suggested simple measures which professionals can adopt easily, to improve health outcomes, and save money.
The findings have influenced the forthcoming NHS Accessible Information Standard, which is designed to improve access and communication for patients who currently face difficulties with healthcare.