Planners and providers of health services are service providers and as such must recognise the rights of deaf people under the Equality Act 20101 to have full information and access to health services. Appropriate communication support2 for those receiving care and treatment, whether in primary or secondary care or acute services, should be provided according to a skilled and agreed assessment of need, which follows the patient throughout the health pathway. This communication support provision will ensure that the deaf person is giving informed consent3 throughout every stage of their care and treatment.
Scottish Council on Deafness recommends that health services should:
1. Carry out Equality Impact Assessments4 to ensure that the needs of deaf people are included in all services
2. Involve deaf people in the planning, setting of priorities, provision and monitoring of health services.
3. Ensure that all deaf people have an assessment of need carried out at the start of the patient journey. This assessment will be carried out by an appropriately qualifi ed health professional and will show the person’s communication support needs and those of their family/carers. This information should include the person’s choice of communication support, for example, the gender of the support professional. This information should go with the patient throughout their patient journey and should be transferable to other Health Boards across the UK.
4. Improve the accessibility of the services, particularly the way people can contact health services to make appointments and enquiries and gather information.
5. Ensure that the needs of deaf people are taken into consideration when planning outpatient and public areas, especially waiting areas, toilets and refreshment areas.
6. Ensure the needs of deaf people who are inpatients are catered for, including their communication needs, which should be provided by appropriate professional registered communication support.
7. Provide and pay for appropriate professional, registered communication support in hospitals and in primary care settings. There should be a clear booking process for communication support and all health professionals/reception staff/booking staff should be aware of this.
8. Look at the use of online interpreter services which will allow Deaf Sign Language users to have access to a registered BSL/English Interpreter at all times when in contact with the health services. Online interpreting services should not replace face-to-face interpreting services for all appointments/meetings, as there will be instances when online services are not appropriate.
9. Ensure that all staff receive accredited deaf awareness training; this should be provided both in pre-service training, and in in-service training on a regular basis. Staff should also receive training on current and new legislation.
10. Ensure that all health promotion materials and other information is fully accessible – with illustrations where appropriate that take into account the culture, identity and language of deaf people.
11. Ensure that deaf people have equal access to classes on healthy living, lifestyle and self management courses through the provision of appropriate communication support and/or information in alternative formats.
12. Have a procedure in place that allows the health care professional to refer the deaf person to an independent advocacy organisation if this is what the deaf person wishes.
13. Encourage the employment of deaf people to facilitate service use by deaf people.
1 For more about this Act, see our Information Sheet entitled Equality Act 2010
2 See our Information Sheet on Communication Support
3 For more information, see our Position Statement entitled Informed Consent for Adults
4 Please see our Information Sheet on Terminology