Deaf and blind people in Wales get better access to their doctor

Post date: 
Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Deaf, deafblind and people with sight loss in Wales should start getting more support from their GPs, thanks to a new guide from Action on Hearing Loss Cymru and RNIB Cymru.

The charities have produced a guide for surgery staff to ensure patients with sensory loss are able to go to the doctor with confidence.

‘Understanding your patients’ needs; Supporting people with Sensory Loss’ has been produced following discussions with people with varying degrees of hearing and sight loss across Wales.

Heather Patterson from Cardiff is a deaf sign language user and took part in the focus groups. She said, “I’ve found it very hard to see a GP in my area. When I asked if I could contact them through text message or email they said that it wasn’t possible because of data protection – meaning I had to get a family member to call for me.

“This not only added a delay to setting up an appointment but also stopped me getting the privacy I needed.

“Surgeries across Wales need to read this guide and commit to improving their service for people with sensory loss.”

Richard Williams, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said, “Every day around 10,000 people with hearing loss visit their GP in Wales. 

“Most of the guidance included in our document is simple and inexpensive to carry out, but will make all the difference; such as making a record of someone’s hearing loss and giving them alternative ways to get in touch, other than by telephone.

“We’ve also produced a toolkit for frontline staff, which is a simple to use booklet giving practical tips such as how to book an interpreter.

“We’d encourage anyone with sensory loss to tell their GP surgery about their needs and complain if staff don’t communicate in their preferred way.”

Ceri Jackson, Director of RNIB Cymru said "The accessible information standards for people with sensory loss have been in place in the NHS since 2013, but we have found that many hard-working staff across primary and secondary care aren’t aware of the simple actions they can take to ensure a blind or partially sighted person can access their GP surgery and care in an accessible way.

“It is often easy to forget that everyday communication may not necessarily be accessible by all, and many patients tell us that they are forgotten about in waiting rooms because they can’t access a visual call-screen, or a GP or nurse will call a name and then walk away, leaving the patient to try and discover into which room they should follow them.

“This guide we’re launching today is straightforward and can be accessed by all staff working in a GP surgery. Simple steps like telling a person what you are doing, guiding them to where they need to go, or asking if they need a different format for the information they’ve been given can ensure a blind or partially sighted person can maintain their dignity and independence within the health system.”

The best practice document and toolkit for frontline staff were launched at the Senedd on 26 June 2017. The full documents in English or Welsh can be downloaded from the Action on Hearing Loss website. <

The documents were produced as part of a three-year project, funded by the Welsh Government’s Equality and Inclusion Grant.

Tips for communicating with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss

  •  Make sure you have face-to-face contact and their full attention.
  • Ask; do they lipread? Or do they need a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter?
  • If using an interpreter, talk to the person you’re communicating with, not the interpreter.
  • Speak clearly; don't exaggerate your facial expressions and gestures.
  • Don’t cover your mouth.
  • Don't shout! It’s uncomfortable and aggressive.
  • If someone doesn't understand, say it in a different way.
  • Make sure people can contact you in their preferred way

Tips for communicating with someone with sight loss

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Talk to the person directly, rather than any companion.
  • Use words, avoid nods and head shakes.
  • Tell the person what you are doing, for example, “I’m looking at your file”.
  • Tell the person if you’re moving away from them.
  • Ask the person if they need to be guided to their destination.