Paul Stemman is SignHealth’s Head of Policies and Campaigns. Here he explains what the new Information Standard is and how SignHealth are leading on behalf of Deaf people.
“SignHealth have been busy helping NHS England with a consultation. NHS England wanted to know what D/deaf people thought about a new plan to improve access for D/deaf and blind patients.
We asked the North West Deaf Health Champions to organise an event, and we arranged two events in Bristol, to make sure that Deaf people had the chance to share their opinions in BSL.
We worked with local Deaf people to make sure the events were publicised and well attended. Trish Vallance and Lynn Stewart-Taylor did a fantastic job. The events deliberately targeted Deaf signers, although other deaf people could access the consultation easily online and in writing.
NHS England is developing a new manual called the “Information Standard”. This manual will explain to NHS services what they need to do to make their services accessible to D/deaf and blind patients. Unlike many other manuals, NHS services must do what this manual says. For example, if the manual says that all deaf patients must be asked what communication method they would prefer, e.g. a BSL/English interpreter, that preference must be recorded, and staff must organise an interpreter for the patient.
The consultation events that SignHealth organised were a big success. We were able to find out what problems Deaf people experience, and how we can improve their access. There were a range of opinions, and everyone had a chance to discuss what the advantages and disadvantages were.
We have now passed on all the feedback to NHS England. They will be looking at it all. They will then decide on what the manual should say.
I’ll be working hard to make sure that the Deaf community get the best possible Information Standard. I’ll also make sure it is put into action properly. We need to make sure health services understand what the Information Standard means, and know that SignHealth are here to help them. That way, D/deaf patients will get the best possible access to health care.”