Following a scrutiny task group of Watford councillors, Hertfordshire’s County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee has agreed to take forward their recommendations as part of a county-wide review...
Over 11 million people in the UK live with some degree of hearing loss. Of these, about 750,000 are severely or profoundly deaf. A further 450,000 people cannot hear well enough to use a voice telephone. Deaf people are also more likely to have poor mental health; up to 50% of deaf people, compared to 25% of the general population.
It was concern about equal access to health services that led Watford Borough Council to convene a scrutiny task group to undertake a review of the issues experienced by deaf people in accessing health services. Issues considered included communication facilities, staff training and delays in treatment. The review took evidence from Watford Deaf Club, Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust and Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service.
Scrutiny has a vital role to play for Watford Borough Council in highlighting the concerns of local residents and, although the council does not have a formal remit in this area, recommendations were put forward to Hertfordshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Glen Saffery, Chair of the task group said: “It is shocking that deaf people are more likely to suffer ill health than other people, simply because it is harder for them to use the health services. Removing the barriers for the deaf community will make a huge difference to their experience of using health services.”
“I am pleased that the county council have agreed to take forward these recommendations. It was heart-breaking to be told stories of deaf people being made to feel invisible when they should be made to feel welcome. We hope that our recommendations, including the inclusion of British Sign Language on the welcome sign at Watford General, will start to tackle this.”
The review was proposed by Councillor Karen Collett, Portfolio Holder for Community, following a meeting with Watford Deaf Club, who added: “I am delighted with the clear recommendations made by the task group and want to extend my thanks to the councillors and organisations who contributed.”
The county council has indicated it will widen the review to cover health services across Hertfordshire to improve services for deaf residents. The recommendations included:
- A British Sign Language resource with basic signs to be made available in all GP surgeries, hospital medical departments and ambulances.
- Continue to share best practice in providing accessible services amongst GP practices and introduce messaging services that patients can use to contact the surgery.
- The hospital trust to consider providing a way for patients to consent to their accessibility needs being visibly flagged on their notes and to choose their preferred means of communication.
- Introducing a deaf awareness training module across the hospital trust.
For more information on support for deaf people, please visit actiononhearingloss.org.uk