Survey of BSL users about access to communication support in healthcare
Survey conducted by:
Action on Hearing Loss
ASLI (Association of Sign Language Interpreters)
NRCPD (National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People)
BDA (British Deaf Association)
BSMHD (British Society for Mental Health and Deafness)
This document reports the top line findings of a survey conducted by a group of organisations who support deaf people during April 2012 to explore the experiences of British Sign Language (BSL) users when accessing healthcare. Respondents were asked about their experiences of accessing and using sign language interpreters in healthcare settings (both GP and hospital settings).
The results are based on responses from 305 people who identified that they use BSL as their first or preferred language.
We are concerned that British Sign Language users are not being provided with fully qualified interpreters in healthcare settings. It is imperative that Sign Language Interpreters used by healthcare providers are registered with the National Register of Communication Professionals (NRCPD). This ensures that the interpreter is qualified to the correct standard to enable accurate communication of medical information.
In order to find out more about the standard of interpretation that BSL users have experienced, we asked BSL users about problems they have had understanding the sign language interpreter assigned to them in healthcare settings.
For the purpose of the survey 'sign language interpreter' is used to define anyone attending an appointment with the aim to provide translation.
Evidence highlighting problems with the standard of communication support provided in GP and hospital settings
- 36% of respondents have made a complaint about a sign language interpreter because they could not understand them, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
- 48% of respondents have been unhappy with the standard of sign language interpreter provided at a health appointment, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
- 41% of respondents have left a health appointment feeling confused about their medical condition, because they couldn’t understand the sign language interpreter, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
- 29% of respondents have been confused about how to take their medication, because they couldn’t understand the sign language interpreter, suggesting that Deaf people are not always being provided with registered, fully qualified, interpreters.
Evidence highlighting problems with the booking procedures for British Sign Language interpreters in GP and hospital settings
- 68% of respondents have asked for a sign language interpreter to be booked for a GP appointment but did not get one. The equivalent figure for hospital appointments is 66%.
- 84% of respondents have felt frustrated after a health appointment because no sign language interpreter was provided.
- 67% of respondents were not sure their GP surgery would be able to book a registered sign language interpreter for them. When asked about hospitals, 61% of respondents were not sure hospital staff would be able to book them a registered sign language interpreter.
- 74% of respondents have had to remind GP staff about their communication needs, while 80% of respondent have had to remind hospital staff.
Evidence highlighting the problems that occur when no British Sign Language interpreter is provided at a health appointment
- 57% of respondents have been confused about how to take their medication because no sign language interpreter was provided.
- 10% of respondents said they had definitely taken medication incorrectly, because no sign language interpreter was provided.
- 61% of respondents have put off going to a health appointment because they were worried about communication problems.
Evidence highlighting the problems that can occur when a friend or family member does the interpreting
- 65% of respondents have felt embarrassed because a family member or friend is doing the interpreting.
- 65% of respondents said they were either very or fairly worried that sensitive information about their health condition may have been left out in order to protect their feelings, when a family member or friend has interpreted for them.
- 15% of respondents have used a friend of family member who is under 16 years old to interpret for them.
The full survey results will be available in due course.
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Get in touch
For more information on, please contact:
Action on Hearing Loss
97 – 107 Hagley Road
Telephone: 0121 450 8980
Textphone: 0121 450 8985