DeafHear Regional News

Regional News


ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES:
Are things improving for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people?
Posted: 9th July 2015


In January 2015, the Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch T.D. launched the new National Guidelines on Accessible Health and Social Care Services.

The guidelines were welcomed by all organisations supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, as we had been advocating for many years about the lower health status of people due to communication barriers. Now, 6 months on, we examine if there has been any improvements on the ground.


Health experiences of
Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

  • 30% of sign language users and 15% of Hard of Hearing people avoid going to their GP due to communication issues

  • 73% found it difficult or very difficult communicating with their GP

  • 28% found it more difficult to make appointments

  • 35% were unclear about their health condition

  • 33% of sign language users unsure about medication.

  • 83% found it difficult or very difficult communicating in hospitals

  • Sources: A Simple Cure, RNID, (2004), Living in the Community, DeafHear, (2009).

Launch of National Guidelines

With the launch of the National Guidelines, for the first time it was explicity clear that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people were entitled to ask and receive communication support when accessing health services. DeafHear had argued for many years that this right existed under Disability and Equality legislation, but with little success. But the National Guidelines on Accessible Services makes it crystal clear: Deaf and Hard of Hearing people can ask for the communication support they need, and it is then the responsibility of the healthcare provider to make the necessary arrangements.


What the National Guidelines on
Accessible Health Services say

‘Ask the person how they would like to communicate’ (P.51).

‘Patients and service users are entitled to request and be provided with a qualified sign language interpreter. While the onus is on the service user to request an interpreter, it is the responsibility of staff to make the arrangements’ (P.52).

‘Provide induction loop systems for hearing aid users or a portable listening device for Hard of Hearing service users, and test them regularly’ (P.50).


GP Appointments

One of the areas of most concern was access to sign language interpreters for appointments with GPs and other health professionals. Recent figures made available by the Sign Langauge Interpreting Service (SLIS) indicate that there has been some progress in this area. For example, this year SLIS is aware of at least 7 Deaf people who have had consultations with their GPs with sign language interpreters present. All of these appointments were in Dublin or Cork. While these figures are low, we believe they represent a move in the right direction.


A Point to Remember!

Some people think that the sign language interpreter is present to assist the Deaf person. However, without the assistance of the sign language interpreter, the health professional could not do their job safely! The National Guidelines note: ‘Not providing a qualified sign language interpreter when delivering care to a patient or service user places the health or social care provider in a precarious situation’ (P.52).


We also know that some hospitals have been improving the accessibility of their services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. The introduction of visual ticketing systems and induction loops in some patient waiting areas is a step forward, while some hospitals, such as the Mater in Dublin, have a good track record in booking sign language interpreters when required.

Not everyone is benefitting

However, we are aware that many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people continue to experience communication barriers when accessing health services. Some of these people are elderly and vulnerable, and may not have the confidence or resolve to request the assistance they need. In these instances the person is relying on the good practice of the health professional to ask the patient how they would like to communicate, and to provide the assistance they need. This might be simply by writing notes, explaining information slowly ‘only one piece at a time’, or booking a sign language interpreter .

Be proactive: Ask for assistance!

Others may not be aware that they are entitled to ask and be provided with the communication assistance they need! So know your rights...and be prepared to ask your health provider if you need assistance. They may not yet be aware that they should ask you! You might want them to provide a loop or suitable listening device; you may prefer for them to communicate in writing to you; or you may want them to provide a sign language interpreter. By looking for this assistance you may not be just improving your own health care, but you may be helping other fellow patients in the future by creating greater awareness among health professionals.

More to do!

DeafHear.ie HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services
HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services
Read On…

 

Despite the welcome introduction of the National Guidelines on Accessible Services, not everyone is able to access health services on an equitable basis. The Guidelines only cover public services and public patients, so while a medical card holder will be provided with a sign langauge interpreter on request when seeing their GP, the Guidelines do not presently cover non-medical card holders who see their GP on a private basis. This is an inequality that DeafHear will be urging the Department of Health to address as a matter of urgency.

Spread the news!

So spread the news: Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are entitled to ask for, and receive, communication support when accessing health and social care services. It will take some time for everyone to become familiar with the new guidelines, but individuals can help this process by asking for the assistance they need. The more Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are able to access health services with no communication barriers, the more we can expect that the health inequalities they experience at present will be reduced, and they can enjoy a health status similar to their hearing peers.

Share your story!

Tell us about your experiences accessing health and social care services, both good and bad! And if you are having difficulty getting the communication support you need in a health setting, fill in the form below or contact your local DeafHear Resource Centre where we will be happy to assist you.

 

Tell us your story…

 


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HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services
Posted: 13th January 2015

DeafHear welcomes the launch of National Guidelines on Accessible Health and Social Care Services. If implemented… Read On…

DeafHear.ie HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services

Visiting the GP and the Dentist:
A personal experience
Posted: September 2013

This is the story of a Hard of Hearing person’s experience while visiting her GP and Dentist. She lives in the West of Ireland and we thank her for permission to use her story. She talks about difficulties with waiting rooms, accents and even X–rays! Read On…

DeafHear.ie Story of the Month September 2013.

 

Media Contacts

DeafHear.ie will provide spokespersons to comment on issues relevant to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people on request.

To contact Brendan Lennon; Head of Information and Policy, click here...

 

 

    


 

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