Snapshot Insight Report: Deaf People’s Healthcare Challenges

Following publication of our report into the challenges deaf people face accessing their GP, Healthwatch Barnet ran follow-up focus groups on the experiences of deaf residents on access to more general health services.
Hearing aid fitting

Following publication of our Snapshot Insight Report looking specifically at the challenges deaf people face with accessing their GP, we held a further focus group with different participants and staff in the summer with the Jewish Deaf Association (JDA).

The scope of the follow-up focus group was to obtain further data on the experiences of deaf residents in accessing more general health services, including community, hospital and GPs. From the in-depth qualitative feedback gathered from 14 people, four themes have been identified.

Key Findings

Theme 1 - Lack of Provision for Qualified Interpreters

Participants from the focus group held in April 2021 described a lack of qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters being provided during GP consultations.In our follow-up focus group, the same issue was reiterated with participants expressing their frustration with staff asking family or friends to interpret for them instead of a qualified BSL interpreter.

Theme 2 - Lack of Deaf Awareness Training

Another theme echoed from our previous findings is the lack of basic deaf awareness training.

Theme 3Remote Appointments

The COVID-19 pandemic caused healthcare services to move online which resulted in accessibility challenges for many people, particularly deaf patients.

Theme 4Communication Challenges

A recurring theme from our previous findings is the lack of written information in an accessible manner for deaf patients, often due to the complexity of NHS communications.


Our Core Recommendations

From the discussions, we have a series of recommendations. These are:

  1. Ensure all healthcare staff are trained in deaf awareness and that their training is kept up-to-date to improve communication with deaf patients.
  2. NCL CCG to commission an interpreting service for BSL users for remote appointments in Barnet.
  3. Offer face-to-face appointments for deaf residents when a remote appointment is not suitable.
  4. Book qualified BSL interpreters for deaf patients in line with the Accessible Information.
  5. Provide staff with clear face masks to allow for lip-reading and improved communication with deaf patients.

You can read the report in full below. If you would like to comment, or have anything to add, please email the Healthwatch Barnet team.

“I’m deaf and when I go to the GP, nobody knows any sign language whatsoever, not even some fingerspelling, nothing”.

Download the Snapshot Insight Report: Deaf People’s Healthcare Challenges

Download the Snapshot Insight Report: Deaf People’s Healthcare Challenges below.

Snapshot Insight Report: Deaf People’s Healthcare Challenges

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