People in Wales who are deaf, have hearing loss, are blind or partially sighted are being urged to tell doctors and nurses about their communication needs when they go to hospital or the GP.
November is Sensory Loss Awareness Month in Wales, and Local Health Boards, NHS Trusts and charities have teamed up to work on the It Makes Sense campaign to raise awareness of the rights of patients when being treated in hospitals, GP surgeries and other healthcare services.
Charities are welcoming the support of NHS Wales, after the Health Minister visited a staff sensory loss awareness session and British Sign Language lesson at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant today.
Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport said, “We know that more than 600,000 people have hearing or sight loss in Wales. This campaign will help people who use NHS services and healthcare staff to communicate better and to improve patient safety.
“Often, just a few small adjustments can make all the difference, and this campaign has been developed by people who use our services and who feel the benefit of high-quality care that meets their communication needs.”
During Sensory Loss Awareness Month people who are deaf, have hearing loss, blind, partially sighted or deafblind are being urged to take part in the It Makes Sense campaign and;
· Tell doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals how they prefer to communicate.
· Ask to receive information in the format they prefer, including British Sign Language, large print or braille.
· Share their concerns if they don’t receive this.
NHS leaders are also encouraging those who work in the NHS to;
· Find out from online training the best ways to communicate with people who are deaf, blind or have other communication needs.
· Ask patients how they would like to communicate.
· Offer to give the information in the format they prefer, including British Sign Language, large print or braille.
The All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for people with sensory loss were launched in 2013 and say surgeries and hospitals should take certain steps to ensure they can communicate well with people who are deaf, have hearing loss, blind, partially sighted or deafblind.
Angela Davies from Llandudno is profoundly deaf and a British Sign Language user. She said, “My deaf friends and I have horror stories about visiting doctors and hospitals. One even ended up in A&E for taking medicine incorrectly, because the doctor couldn’t communicate properly with her.
“One of the worst places can be the audiology departments, where you would think the staff would be deaf aware. I used to live in England and my local audiology department was awful. When you turned up for your appointment, you’d be given a ticket and the audiologist would come to the waiting room and shout out the number. If you didn’t respond they’d go to the next person. No good if you can’t hear anything!
“Here in North Wales it’s much better. The whole audiology department has had deaf awareness training and can communicate well. I am also lucky that our GP always faces me so I can lipread and makes sure I understand everything. Sadly not everyone is as lucky.”
Richard Williams, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said, “We’re delighted that the NHS in Wales is taking positive steps to ensure that people who have sensory loss get the same treatment as people who can hear or see well.
“Yet there is still work to be done. We still hear from patients who leave hospital, unsure of how much medication they are meant to take and unclear on the advice they have been given.
“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.”
Ceri Jackson, Director of RNIB Cymru said, "It is three years since the standards were launched and blind and partially sighted people are still unable to access their health care completely privately and often safely. I am pleased that there does seem to be an increased awareness of the standards within NHS staff practice but there is still a long way to go.
“The Equality Act (2010) already set the legal framework for all information to be provided in the format that is required within a public setting and we must keep striving to ensure that if your sight is impaired you can still access everything you need to within the health service and that you are safely able to take your prescribed medication.”
Marilyn Campbell, said: “Recently, I visited a hospital Pharmacy, the nurse who had accompanied me handed over my prescription and explained to the staff that I was blind. As I waited for my prescription, I heard the Pharmacist check other people’s medications and personal details.
“When it came to my turn I was handed a bag and just left standing at the counter. I eventually managed to attract the attention of another member of staff who explained the different types of medication I had received and how I was to take them. Nevertheless I left the hospital in tears. I really hope that more can be done to raise awareness of the importance of these communication standards.”
To find out more about the It Makes Sense campaign visit www.equalityhumanrights.wales.nhs.uk