Health & Well-being16th February 2014

Backing the new Healthcare Standards for people with a Sensory Loss

Public awareness of the new Standards will improve through information cards being made available

by Rachael Earp


Sensory focussed organisations across Wales are working together to support the new 'All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for People with a Sensory Loss'. Launched by the Welsh Government in December, these new guidelines are aimed at helping frontline NHS staff communicate with patients who have hearing and/or sight loss. 

‚ÄčThe first of their kind across the UK, the new standards will also ensure that people with additional communication needs will now be better informed about their rights and what healthcare services and support that they should expect.

Under the new standards people with a sensory loss should, for example, expect:

  • Better awareness from health professionals around how they need to be communicated with;
  • Easier access to making healthcare appointments;
  • Better access to communications support such as interpreters during medical appointments;
  • Clearer communication from health professionals during consultations; and
  • Better signage in medical settings.

Action on Hearing Loss Cymru are working alongside six other partners including: British Deaf Association, Deaf Access Cymru, National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), North Wales Deaf Association, Sarah Lawrence – SL First and Wales Council for Deaf People and have already brought together people who are deaf or have a hearing loss to help form the content of the new standards. It is now vital that all of the 530,000 people who are deaf or have a hearing loss across Wales get to know about the standards and refer to them when dealing with health professionals.

Richard Williams, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, explained: "These standards have been shaped by people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, from their real-life day to day experiences as patients within the NHS in Wales."

"Some of the stories we have heard are completely unacceptable – for example doctors relying on family members to tell a patient they had cancer, people being denied interpreters, patients leaving hospital unsure of what medication to take, intercoms blocking deaf people from accessing wards and many more examples. We are pleased that the Welsh Government and Welsh Health Boards are supporting this work and going forward we hope that these practical standards will make a big difference for all those with a sensory loss across Wales and also set a precedent for how services are delivered across the rest of the UK."

Terry Dewar, from Llandudno, was one of the many people with hearing loss who were able to input into these standards and he added, "Every day in Wales patients with hearing loss face huge barriers in accessing primary and secondary healthcare. It is a really positive step forward that people like myself have been heard and our experiences taken into account to help shape better health services for the future."

"The work however will not stop here. These standards have potential to make a big difference to those with all levels of sensory loss and we need to continue to work with the government and the health boards to ensure that real change now happens."

Welsh government Health Minister Mark Drakeford concluded: "The NHS must be accessible to all groups and these Standards – once fully implemented - will help to address the barriers that people with sensory loss face in accessing health services. The All Wales Standards have been shaped by people with sensory loss, working collaboratively with Welsh Government, the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights and other key stakeholders and commitment to tackle the difficulties faced by the sensory loss community when accessing healthcare services is also reflected in our Programme for Government."

Sensory loss partners are also currently working with the NHS in England on a similar standard to ensure that NHS services there are also accessible for people with hearing loss, sight loss or learning disabilities.

AoHL Cymru are printing cards with vital information for the public about the standards and these will be distirubuted widely, including with every Spring Edition of the SLFirst magazine distributed in Wales.

For more information
Full information and copies of the All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for people with sensory loss can be accessed on the Welsh Government website via http://bit.do/wales-gov-health

Article by Rachael Earp

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

16th February 2014