Deaf Experience in Hospital: A Patient’s View

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On Thursday, like many of us, I got soaked to the skin. I had travelled across to the Alexandra Hospital on the motorbike as the rain lashed down, But it was so worth it. Why? Because I was supporting my Deaf friend William as he spoke about patient experience to our Trust Board. The Board, comprised of the Hospital leaders; chief exec; chief nurse; etc listened intently as far as I could see, as William explained certain cases where we could have done better for our Deaf patients. He was accompanied by Angie, any interpreter who used her skills, to voice for us what Willliam was saying and sign to him what the Board were saying. And it was a brilliantly clear presentation. William told us of the barriers to Deaf access to hospitals; from the technical language used in appointment letters to accessing help in an emergency situation. He said how some Deaf people would go to Deaf Direct to have the letters translated for them or to make telephone calls on their behalf. He told us of the isolation a Deaf person can face as an inpatient on the wards when none of the staff can sign. He mentioned new technology that can provide an interpreter instantly via a laptop or tablet. But most importantly he told us about Deaf Culture; which needs to be understood if we are to meet the patient’s needs. It is not just a case of being able to sign some words; but, as always, to inhabit the world of the other person and make them at home on their own terms. I also had the privilege of addressing the board, mentioning the 150 staff we have already trained in basic BSL, but also recognizing that, whilst a good start, there is way more that we can do. At the end, William, with his hearing dog Archie (how could I forget him until now) received a massive round of applause – expressed by the waving of our hands in the air. I was hugely encouraged. You will know that I am making it my aim to make Worcestershire Acute Trust the most Deaf Aware and Deaf Friendly Trust in the UK. And in the summing up by the Chairman, Sir David had captured the essence of the presentation and suggested some meaningful actions. That’s what happens when we listen to people and hear how we can do better meet their needs.

 

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