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April 5, 2005

Deaf 'face a lottery over postcodes'

From: Belfast Telegraph - UK - Apr 5, 2005

Call made for better access

By Nigel Gould
05 April 2005

Access to health services for the deaf or hard of hearing people remains a postcode lottery in Northern Ireland, a new study has revealed.

RNID, the largest charity representing deaf and hard of hearing people in the province, asked every trust to illustrate how accessible their services are to people with hearing impairment.

RNID's report A Simple Cure revealed, due to communication problems with health professionals, that a third of deaf and hard of hearing people had been left unclear about their condition, and 33% of sign language users were unsure of how much medication to take, which could have serious consequences.

The latest feedback from Health and Social Services shows that although most trusts are aware of their obligations to their deaf and hearing impaired patients, a number are not taking measures to make services accessible to everyone.

With the added obligations of meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) some trusts have established working groups to address issues of access within their premises.

Examples of good practice exist in the Northern Board area, Homefirst HSS Trust and Causeway HSS Trust have both produced a Disability Information Manual for all staff. It includes information on communicating with deaf or hard of hearing patients. And 150 healthcare staff in Causeway received deaf awareness training.

At Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and Mourne Trust, induction loop systems are in place in seven key patient access points and Greenpark Healthcare Trust is supporting 16 staff through a British Sign Language training course.

In Craigavon Hospital, an advance booking system is in operation so the local GP can notify the hospital of a patient's communication requirements.

Brian Symington, RNID Northern Ireland director, said: "A minimum expectation would be that all Trusts have a textphone in place, and a loop system in reception areas to aid communication."

2005 Independent News and Media (NI) a division of Independent News & media (UK) Ltd