If you're deaf or have hearing loss, you should expect the same access to services as everybody else.
If you feel this wasn't the case when you used a service, and you are unable to resolve the issue on the spot, you can write a letter of complaint.
Before you complain
Ask the service you want to complain about for their complaints procedure. It's harder for services to ignore your complaint if you follow official procedures.
Complaining to a healthcare provider
Make your complaint clear
- Give some background about your condition and the support you need to help you to communicate.
- Give the facts about when and where the problem occurred. For example, 'I attended an appointment at the [name of department] of [name of surgery or hospital] in [name of town] at 11:30 on 3 May 2012. My appointment was with [name of consultant].'
- Give a brief overview of the problem you experienced, and what happened as a result. For example, 'Although I had requested an interpreter to be booked for my appointment, when I arrived I found that no British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter was available. I continued with the appointment, but I struggled to understand what the consultant was saying. In the end I had to leave the appointment early feeling frustrated, upset and unsure about what was wrong with me…' Or, 'I wanted to make an appointment with the receptionist, but the loop system wasn’t working, and I couldn’t hear what she was saying. She started to shout information and I felt embarrassed as I could feel that everyone was looking at me…'
- Did you feel that you were put at a disadvantage compared to people without hearing loss? Say so, and explain how this made you feel.
Explain what you would like to happen
Outline what you would like the healthcare service to do to address. For example:
- 'I want the hospital to review its procedures for providing BSL interpreters so that registered interpreters are always available for my healthcare appointments.'
- 'I want the surgery to install a loop system at the reception counter and introduce procedures for regularly checking that the loop system at the reception is in working order.'
Did you receive a satisfactory response?
See the NHS website for more details about how it will deal with your complaint. If you're not satisfied, consider approaching the Health Service Ombudsman. They'll usually only investigate after the NHS has had a chance to resolve your complaint.
You can also ask your local MP or other elected representative to put pressure on your local healthcare providers to improve access.
Can I get help to make a complaint to a health service?
If you'd like more help with your complaint, you can ask your local Healthwatch to put you in touch with the NHS complaints advocacy provider for your area.
The Our Health in Your Hands campaign provides BSL users with template materials to complain about access to interpreters in healthcare settings.
Complaining to another service provider
For letter writing tips if you've experienced problems at a museum or gallery, at the cinema, or when you went to a café, bar or restaurant, see our sample letter guidelines.
If you'd like to complain because of poor or non-existent subtitles, see How to write a complaint and where to send it