People in Wales who are deaf, have hearing loss, are blind or partially sighted are being urged to tell doctors and nurses about their communication needs when they go to hospital or the GP.
November was Sensory Loss Awareness Month in Wales, and health boards, NHS Trusts and charities teamed up to work on the It Makes Sense campaign to raise awareness of the rights of patients when being treated in hospitals, GP surgeries and other healthcare services
Launching the It Makes Sense campaign at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant, Mr Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport said, “We know that more than 600,000 people have hearing or sight loss in Wales. This campaign will help people who use NHS services and healthcare staff to communicate better and to improve patient safety.
“Often, just a few small adjustments can make all the difference, and this campaign has been developed by people who use our services and who feel the benefit of high-quality care that meets their communication needs.”
During Sensory Loss Awareness Month people who are deaf, have hearing loss, blind, partially sighted or deafblind were urged to take part in the ‘It Makes Sense’ campaign and;
- Tell doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals how they prefer to communicate.
- Ask to receive information in the format they prefer, including British Sign Language, large print or braille.
- Share their concerns if they don’t receive this.
NHS leaders were also encouraging those who work in the NHS to;
- Find out from online training the best ways to communicate with people who are deaf, blind or have other communication needs.
- Ask patients how they would like to communicate.
- Offer to give the information in the format they prefer, including British Sign Language, large print or braille.
The All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for people with sensory loss were launched in 2013 and say surgeries and hospitals should take certain steps to ensure they can communicate well with people who are deaf, have hearing loss, blind, partially sighted or deafblind.
Richard Williams, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said, “We’re delighted that the NHS in Wales is taking positive steps to ensure that people who have sensory loss get the same treatment as people who can hear or see well.
“Yet there is still work to be done. We still hear from patients who leave hospital, unsure of how much medication they are meant to take and unclear on 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.”
Rebekah Daniel, paediatric occupational therapist was at the launch and took part in a brief demonstration of British Sign Language.
Rebekah said: “A few years ago I saw a patient on the ward who was deaf and struggling to communicate his needs to the nursing staff.
“His son came in to translate using BSL, as he had declined a translator.
“I knew a few signs that I had picked up over the years and one day I signed him ‘thank you’. His face broke into a huge smile and his son thanked me for speaking to his dad in his preferred language.
“I was surprised at how such a small gesture could evoke such a positive reaction.”
Ceri Jackson, Director of RNIB Cymru said, “It is three years since the standards were launched and blind and partially sighted people are still unable to access their health care completely privately and often safely. I am pleased that there does seem to be an increased awareness of the standards within NHS staff practice but there is still a long way to go.
“The Equality Act (2010) already set the legal framework for all information to be provided in the format that is required within a public setting and we must keep striving to ensure that if your sight is impaired you can still access everything you need to within the health service and that you are safely able to take your prescribed medication.”
Liz Jenkins, the health board’s equality manager said: “It’s great to see the benefit that staff gain from our training sessions and how that in turn can help patients.
“We’ve come a long way in our health board in terms of meeting the needs of people with sensory loss but there’s still a lot to do.
“If anyone else is interested in becoming a sensory loss champion, please contact me on [email protected]
To find out more about the It Makes Sense campaign visit www.equalityhumanrights.wales.nhs.uk