Deaf people are dying early because communication difficulties prevent them from having the same access to healthcare as hearing people. That’s what SignHealth’s Director of Communications Paul Welsh told BBC Radio Berkshire.
SignHealth was responding to “Are you hearing us? The experience of deaf patients in Wokingham Borough accessing GP services”. The report was produced by Deaf Positives Action, which ‘mystery shopped’ 13 surgeries in the area, on behalf of HealthWatch Wokingham
They discovered that surgeries often do not provide patients with an interpreter. And where an interpreter service is available, patients often have to wait weeks for an appointment, putting their health at risk.
Deaf Positives Action’s findings reflected those of SignHealth’s ‘Sick of It’ report into deaf health. ‘Sick of It’ revealed that 70% of Deaf people who haven’t been to their GP recently wanted to but didn’t go, mainly because there was no interpreter.
“This situation is so unnecessary’, Paul Welsh told the BBC, “Deaf people are dying earlier than hearing people simply because health providers are not making the effort to give them equal access to health services.”
Paul told the BBC Berkshire’s Andrew Peach about SignHealth’s InterpreterNow service. The service provides instant, online interpreting between British Sign Language (BSL) users and English speakers via an ordinary phone, computer, tablet or smartphone. It doesn’t replace face to face interpreters, but it can help when there is no time to arrange an interpreter to be present in person, or when one doesn’t turn up.