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March 10, 2004

Lack Of Deaf Awareness Is Costing NHS £ 500000

From: ic, Ireland - Mar 10, 2004

By Breda Heffernan

THE health service in Northern Ireland is wasting half-a-million pounds a year due to lack of deaf awareness, according to a report being released today.

A Simple Cure, published by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), the largest charity representing the quarter of a million deaf and hard of hearing people in Northern Ireland, is the most comprehensive national survey of deaf people's experiences of the health service.

It paints a stark picture of what it says is the "poor access" to health care experienced by people who have a hearing loss.

It found that over a third of deaf or hard of hearing patients had missed at least one hospital appointment because of "poor communication" while a significant proportion of these people said this had happened on more than five occasions.

RNID estimates that the cost of these missed appointments alone is half-a-million pounds.

The survey found that 77 per cent of respondents who had visited hospitals in a nonemergency capacity had found it difficult to communicate with health service staff.

Alarmingly, half of sign language users in Northern Ireland were either unsure of the correct dosage of medication to take or had taken too much or too little because of communication problems.

Some 91 per cent of those using sign language admitted to A&E units were not provided with a sign language interpreter - an omission that only served to make an already stressful situation even worse, according to the report.

RNID warned that, unless significant changes are made in the provision for deaf and hard of hearing patients, the health service could be in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, the final part of which comes into force in October.

Brian Symington, director of RNID Northern Ireland, urged the health service here to adopt simple, cost-effective solutions.

"Minor investments in simple technologies such as visual alert displays and loop systems will improve access and help lower the number of missed appointments.

"However, to be truly effective, this investment needs to be followed by deaf awareness training to all frontline health service staff."

Martin Bradley, director of the Royal College of Nursing Northern Ireland, promised to raise awareness among his members of the problems facing deaf people.

"It is vital that health service managers and professionals pay specific attention to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people just as with all patients and clients.

"This is a matter of common sense, as well as of human rights," he added.

© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2004