Dignity of blind and partially sighted people still not respected by the health service in Wales

Post date: 
Tuesday, 24 February 2015

One year since standards for communicating with deaf, blind, partially sighted and deafblind people were introduced in Wales, 91% of patients say they’re not aware of any improvement.

There are 106,000 people in Wales who are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives. Around 500,000 people in Wales are deaf or have a hearing loss, and an additional 18,850 are affected by a combination of sight and hearing loss, known as dual sensory loss and deafblindness.

The All Wales Standards for Communication and Information were launched in November 2013 and say surgeries and hospitals should take certain steps when it comes to deaf, blind, partially sighted or deafblind people including;

  • Asking them about their communication needs,
  • Training staff to communicate effectively,
  • Providing interpreters,
  • Providing appointment letters and information in whichever format is needed, including large print, braille or audio,
  • Installing and maintaining hearing loop systems,
  • Providing the ability to make an appointment through whichever method is preferred, including telephone, text phone, text messaging or a website.

One year on from the launch of the standards, Action on Hearing Loss Cymru (formerly the RNID), RNIB Cymru and Sense Cymru used a survey, interviews and focus groups to speak to 120 people, covering each Welsh Local Health Board, to find out about people’s experiences in the last year.

The survey also found four out of five patients are not asked about their communication and/or information needs by their doctor’s surgery or at hospital.

Yet over half of patients (58%) didn’t know how to report a concern or complaint.

Richard Williams, director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said, “People with sensory loss in Wales are still leaving hospital every day, unsure of how much medication they are meant to take and unsure of 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. 

“We welcomed the All Wales Standards when they were released a year ago. Yet patients are not seeing the increased accessibility they were promised. This report needs to be prioritised by Welsh Government, Health Boards and all stakeholders.”

Ceri Jackson, director of RNIB Cymru, said, “The solutions to accessible healthcare are not that difficult but can make a huge difference, such as being able to read your appointment letter and  putting accessible options in place for visual displays in GP surgeries. 

Wayne Lewis, head of services at Sense Cymru, said, “These are worrying findings and it is clear that health boards need to step up their implementation of the Standards. This means equipping health workers with the tools they need to deliver accessible services for people with sensory loss by providing better staff training and awareness at every level, including for senior colleagues.”