Our Hands Tied

Throughout late 2017 and early 2018 Healthwatch Hampshire sought the view of deaf people, British Sign Language interpreters, families, carers and professionals.
person's hands

Healthwatch Hampshire were approached to raise the voices of the d/Deaf Community and BSL interpreters who have been giving feedback relating primarily to issues around accessing health and care services.

The way services are provided and delivered has been under significant scrutiny nationally for ensuring the Accessible Information Standard (AIS) is being met. The AIS says that people who have a disability or sensory loss should get information in a way they can access and understand. It also says that they should get support with communication if they need it.

Healthwatch Hampshire ran focus groups with d/Deaf service users and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters to better understand the issues and to use their support to develop a wider online survey. The survey asked the d/Deaf community and BSL interpreters to share their experiences of accessing services and wider issues facing the community including mental health, confidentiality and complaints processes.

Key Themes

  • Lack of knowledge about availability of services (BSL videos not readily available for specific health information like cancer, diabetes or glaucoma support).
  • Difficulties in accessing BSL interpreters/lipspeakers. Poor communication between service users, NHS staff and agencies responsible for booking BSL interpreters/lipspeakers.
  • Unnecessary and inappropriate use of family and friends as interpreters.
  • Problems with making complaints. Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) not being accessible. Often complaints are required in writing, which some people struggle with when English is not their first language.
  • Conflicts of interest with interpreters. Knowing the interpreters in a personal or other professional setting. 
  • Not understanding complex medical information (diagnosis, treatment options, medication) leading to difficulty in providing consent for treatment. This often puts the patient in a vulnerable position.
I used my family member to interpret as they struggled to book an interpreter. It ended up in a family communication breakdown as I didn't want my health information shared with the whole family, but it did.


Read the reports here:

Our Hands Tied - Executive Summary
Our Hands Tied - Full Report

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