If you have hearing loss, you should have the same level of access to health services as hearing people. Plus, your communication needs should be anticipated, and assessed and met in order to avoid poor health outcomes.
Making an appointment
Making an appointment to see your GP or another healthcare professional can be challenging for everybody, but your hearing loss shouldn't create an additional barrier. You should be offered a range of accessible contact options, such as SMS, text relay, textphone, email, online booking.
When you book your appointment, you should be asked whether you need communication support, such as a BSL interpreter, but it may be helpful to be proactive and inform your GP or health service about the support you need. You should only have to tell them once and a note made on your record.
You may find that booking a longer appointment with the service gives you time to communicate more effectively with the healthcare professional.
At your appointment
Once you have successfully booked your appointment, your hearing loss should not be a barrier to attending it. On arrival, it should be easy to check-in and to know when it’s your turn, for example, by having a visual display to notify you. Hearing loops should be working so that hearing aid users can easily speak to a receptionist or other member of staff. If you require communication support this should be available for you on arrival.
It's very important that you are able to understand your conversation with the health service professional, and that you leave your appointment clear about your diagnosis, referral information, or medication that you need. This could mean that the healthcare professional follows basic deaf awareness and speaks clearly while facing you, or, if you are a BSL user, that you have a registered interpreter provided who is familiar with medical terminology. You shouldn't be expected to bring a family member or friend with you to act as your communication support.
Your rights when accessing health services
There's a clear legal foundation for providing access to health services for people with hearing loss. The Equality Act 2010 (the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland) requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible for disabled people.
For people with hearing loss this could mean having hearing loop systems, visual displays indicating when its your turn to see the healthcare professional and communication support.
Services have a responsibility to anticipate and promote these adjustments rather than make them on a responsive basis.
Under the Human Rights Act, health practitioners and staff must establish effective communication with patients with hearing loss as part of their human rights. For more information, see our section Your rights, or read our factsheets, The Equality Act 2010 - your rights when using services and The Human Rights Act
What to do if my health service isn't accessibleIf things don’t go as they should, you can make a complaint. This could help make the service more accessible in the future. There are some simple steps that you can follow to making an effective complaint:
- complain using the right process (ask the health service about their complaints procedure)
- make your complaint clear (explain what did or didn't happen)
- explain what you would like to happen
- escalate the complaint if you do not receive a satisfactory response.
For more information see How to make a complaint