Whats On
Deaf Patient Support cards strike a chord

New communication cards for patients who are deaf British sign language users in Gloucestershire are going down so well, there are now calls from deaf people across England and Wales for the cards to be made available elsewhere in the UK. 

Local deaf charity, Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA), have been working in partnership with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to create the cards for deaf patients, whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL). The purpose of the wallet-sized plastic cards is to help identify patients immediately as deaf and that there is a need for communications support. It also includes the 24-hour-a-day contact details for GDA, so that medical staff know how to book a BSL interpreter.

Although initially introduced for hospital appointments only, the cards are making such an impact that Gloucestershire Care Services and the 2Gether Trust have also come on board.

The Deaf communication cards are the result of close liaison between Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the local Deaf Community, supported by GDA. There is clear evidence which shows that deaf patients are often unable to access clinical services and take part in health consultations in a way hearing people often take for granted. Studies have shown this ‘inadvertent negligence’ leads to poorer health outcomes. (source: SignHealth ‘Sick of It’ 2014 report)

GDA’s Chief Executive, Jenny Hopkins said “We are enormously grateful to Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for putting their trust in deaf patients to know what works for them. Initial objections to the cards centred around the idea that an ID card somehow stigmatises the deaf patient, but this is a hearing person's false perception.

Deaf people feel no stigma about being deaf. However, because it is so easy mistake deafness for other conditions, including dementia or learning difficulties, it is critical that in a medical situation particularly, it is recognised immediately and communication support is put in place promptly.”

GDA’s social media pages letting deaf people know about the deaf communication cards attracted more than 10,000 responses in 24 hours. This is a good example of an extraordinarily simple and cost effective solution being used to improve the experience of disadvantaged patients when attending hospital. GDA is now campaigning for NHS England and NHS Improvement to ask all commissioners and providers to introduce similar cards within their areas.

Suzie Cro, Head of Patient Experience Improvement at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said “We went to the GDA and had a focus group back in April and since then we have worked together with the GDA to implement improvements for people. We are so pleased that this initiative will make a big difference to our patients’ experience.”


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