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      Doctors in Wales still not treating deaf people as equals

      People who are deaf or have hearing loss being put in danger because they’re not getting clear information about their health. 54% of patients say they leave their GP unclear about their diagnosis or how to take their medication.

      Four years since standards for communicating with deaf people were introduced in Wales, research from the charity Action on Hearing Loss Cymru shows more than half of patients say they’re still not getting clear information from their GP.

      Around 575,500 people in Wales are deaf or have a hearing loss.

      The All Wales Standards for Communication and Information were launched in 2013 and say surgeries and hospitals should take certain steps when it comes to people who have sensory loss including;

      • Asking them about their communication needs and recording it visibly on their record
      • Providing interpreters or other communication support for deaf patients, or those attending an appointment as a parent or carer
      • Training staff to communicate effectively
      • Installing and maintaining hearing loop systems and
      • Providing the ability to make an appointment through whichever method is preferred, including telephone, text phone, text messaging or a website.

      52-year-old Fosia Ibrahim from Barry has been Deaf since birth and uses British Sign Language (BSL). She lives in Cardiff with her two hearing children, “A few years ago my son was really ill and I had to text an ambulance in the middle of the night. When the paramedics came, they rushed him to hospital but no one could tell me what was happening.

      “My daughter was trying to interpret but she didn’t understand the medical terms. I was so worried and upset. As a mother, I should have been the first person they informed, but I was the last. It wasn’t until 4pm the next day that a BSL interpreter arrived to tell me my son had a burst ulcer and was going to be OK.”

      Action on Hearing Loss Cymru spoke to more than 380 people who are deaf or have hearing loss in Wales. The survey also found;

      • 38% of people said doctors or nurses don’t speak clearly in appointments
      • 28% said the appointment wasn’t long enough to communicate properly
      • 42% of deaf BSL users said they weren’t provided with an interpreter
      • 29% said they have to ask a friend or family member to call to make a GP appointment on their behalf
      • 36% have to travel to the surgery in person to make an appointment.

      Heather Patterson, a Deaf BSL user from Cardiff said, “I’ve had a lot of problems trying to arrange BSL interpreters for my appointments. It’s meant delays in getting to see my GP; sometimes I have to wait up to four weeks.

      “They also won’t let me text or email to make appointments. I have to ask a friend or family member to phone for me, which sometimes means further delays.”

      Rebecca Woolley, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said, “Failing to communicate with people in a way they can understand not only puts patients at risk it also wastes the health service’s time and money.

      “Many of the solutions to accessible healthcare are simple, for example knowing to touch a deaf person on the arm when it’s time for their appointment rather than calling their name out, or speaking clearly and making eye contact so people with hearing loss can lipread you. These are not costly but can make all the difference to a person who has hearing loss.

      “We welcomed the All Wales Standards when they were released four years ago. Yet patients are still not seeing the increased accessibility they were promised. We now want to see the Cabinet Secretary for Health and local health boards monitoring performance against the standards, publishing the results and intervening when healthcare providers are poorly performing.”

      To read the full report and find out how to give feedback to your GP, visit


      Contact for media enquiries:

      Katie Chappelle Action on Hearing Loss Cymru 02920 333034 /

      Notes to editors