Susan Bloomfield is a Deaf Priest in the Church of England, working with the Deaf Church and Community in Nottinghamshire, Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.
She told SignHealth about her NHS experience to raise awareness amongst hearing professionals.
Please share her story to make people realise the inequalities D/deaf people face, even in 2014.
“In August this year, the consultant told me I have Breast Cancer and I would need Chemotherapy Treatment.
I had my first chemo session on Friday. It went well but by evening I was being sick. The chemeotherapy department gave me the Rapid Response number to call if I was continually being sick. I called the Rapid Response linevia Typetalk. The nurse told me to take an anti-sickness tablet and call back if no better. So I called later as I was still being sick. The nurse told me to take another tablet and suggested calling the out of hours doctor.
I wasn’t sure about how to do that and I was so tired I fell asleep for three hours. Then I was sick again and again. I called Rapid Response again and the nurse told me I could take another tablet and call the out of hours doctor through NHS 111. So I called them via Typetalk. There were a lot of questions by the first person and I was sick at the point they asked me why I was calling. Then after some more questions I was passed to the nurse. The operator offered to repeat the information as they realised I was feeling ill. Lots and lots more questions from the nurse and then she told me, I will pass your details to the out of hours doctor and he will phone you. At this point I told her I was anxious because in my experience the NHS telephone network does not allow calls via the 18002 number. She told me their system works with Typetalk.
The phone rang twice that I was aware of and each time I typed ‘Hello’ but there was no response. I suspected it was the doctor but there was nothing I could do because the call wasn’t via the operator – I checked by dialling 180011471. It was some time later that morning that I eventually got a visit from the doctor. He told me he had tried three times to call me to check if I was alright. I explained that I had responded twice and no response because he wasn’t using the operator service. He asked me how it worked and I told him. He said, ‘I was never given the 18002 prefix.’ I asked ‘Was he told I was Deaf? He said, ‘Yes.’
We Deaf people need NHS staff to be aware of these issues. For me, my Breast Care nurse listened and took my mobile number and my e-mail so she could keep in touch. I suggested she used email as I check this more than my mobile. Through her, my appointments at the breast clinic were arranged via email and so was the appointment for the operation I needed.
I told the doctor, ‘It isn’t your fault you haven’t had the training.’
I am fed up with ‘banging my head on a brick wall’ over this issue.
It comes up countless times and I have to repeat myself and still the NHS cannot get it right and that includes my doctors surgery. When I am sick why should I be worrying about missing the call from a doctor? Please can we have more awareness training and please can the NHS sort out the telephone system to make it accessible for Deaf people to contact and be contacted in whatever way is appropriate for their well being.
Thankfully my sickness was brought under control by the third tablet and the steroids I also needed to take, before the doctor arrived.”
A representative from the NHS who is attending Nottinghamshire Deaf Centre next week will be shown Susan’s clip. Susan’s breast care nurse has seen Susan’s article and is passing it to senior management. One of Susan’s oncology nurses now wants to introduce email communication for all Deaf patients.
If you have a story to tell, please email