Health & Well-being21st January 2014

Disappointing Doctor

All Wales Standards for Communication with patients with sensory loss, seems to have bypassed my doctor's surgery

by Sarah Lawrence

Following a 6 month lead-in period for the NHS services in Wales, I attended the formal launch of the 'New Standards of Communication for people with Sensory Loss' on the 5th December 2013. Writing about the introduction of the Standards and the opportunity they present to NHS Services in Wales to set world leading standards, the issue was always going to be about implementation.

I am sorry to say that my first experience of NHS services since the formal launch has left me wondering to what extent different Local Health Boards have championed the new Standards and ensured knowledge across all parts of the NHS.

My experience started well. I needed to make an appointment and was able to do that via text message. This is a relatively new service that is deaf-friendly, and I was able to book an appointment and get confirmation easily. I made the appointment on a Friday for the following Monday morning.

Along with my son I attended the doctor's surgery on the Monday as planned. When our time came we were invited into the doctor's room and were met with one of the now part time older doctors. I indicated that I was Deaf which resulted in a rather bewildered look. We proceeded and I tried as best I could without an interpreter to explain why we were there. 

The doctor started asking questions but sadly looked away from me when doing so. I am not the greatest lip-reader, but as this was my only chance to understand what the doctor was saying I stopped him and asked him to look at me when talking (some very basic deaf awareness advice that should have accompanied any promotion of the new Standards). For the next few words, the doctor did indeed look my way but quickly resorted again to looking down to write as he was speaking.

Quickly losing my patience with the absence of the most basic awareness about communicating with a deaf person, I made one last attempt to explain what I needed from him to have a chance of understanding what he was saying. Sadly, the doctor seemed incapable/unwilling to work with me to ensure effective communication. A lack of awareness at the start of the conversation is one thing, totally ignoring me when I am trying to explain what is needed is disrespectful.

Intolerant to such behaviour wherever I am, I told the doctor we were leaving and would make an appointment with someone who could communicate with a deaf person. I then left. I did not realise it at the time, but my son told me afterwards that the doctor had said to him, "Can you tell your mother to speak up". Just as well I didn't, as I cannot guarantee I would not have slapped him across the face.

My views on the All Wales Standards that are designed to improve things for people with sensory loss when accessing ALL of the NHS services - staff either haven't been told about them, or people like the doctor I saw have decided it's not for them!! It seems to me that leadership, management, training and accountability will be needed if the NHS are to take these Standards seriously.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

21st January 2014