GP Surgeries Commit To Learn BSL

Surrey Heath is sending out an important message – that they recognise the importance of making their GP services accessible to the Deaf community.

“We are constantly striving to improve patient experience and provide a service that is best suited to the needs of our population.  We’ve been working with Dot Sign Language Ltd. to run several deaf awareness courses for our practice staff across Surrey Heath.

The course offers insight into the challenges deaf people face when entering the surgery setting and covers a basic introduction into signing i.e. greetings, finding out a name, date of birth etc. It is hoped that these courses will inspire and empower our staff to be more inclusive of the Surrey Heath community and better equipped to help support wherever possible.” – Surrey Heath CCG.

Attendees – reception and nursing staff, were shocked at the statistics: It is much more common for doctors not to spot or diagnose health conditions in Deaf people; that they suffer far higher incidences of obesity, mental health problems, behavioural disorders; that Deaf people have twice the likelihood of high blood pressure and four times the likelihood of diabetes.

Why is this? Because of the difficulties Deaf patients face when attempting to book appointments, in getting and understanding a diagnosis, and obtaining results. Many Deaf people do not understand why they are taking their medication. If you are Deaf, you don’t pick up snippets of health advice from the radio or overheard conversations; this means accessing information from the GP surgery is all the more important.

The NHS must comply with the accessible information standard is to make sure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss get information that they can access and understand, and any communication support that they need.

Is it OK to ask a Deaf BSL user to bring a relative or friend to interpret? What are video relay services? How does a person register for the Emergency SMS Service for Deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people? These were all discussed.

Everyone’s favourite part of the sessions was learning basic sign language. If everyone can learn a few phrases it goes a long way to make the practice welcoming to Deaf patients.

We hope other Clinical Commissioning Groups will follow Surrey Heath’s example. To enquire about Deaf awareness and BSL training for your GP practice or hospital contact: