Thursday, 13 September 2012
The deaf/NHS campaign continues...
OK, so this week I've had some great reader feedback regarding my NHS campaign to make things more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Firstly from The Interpreter, who just so happens to interpret BSL.
In one of my last updates I reported back how someone had suggested that BSL be taught to medical professionals as part of their degree course.
The Interpreter quite rightly pointed out the following potential flaws to this plan:
'I'm slightly concerned at the mention of doctors learning BSL.' he wrote. 'I think there may be a danger a clinician could think, "I've got my level 1, I won't bother to book an interpreter." It would be so easy for a Deaf person to disclose a symptom and for the doctor to miss it, or for him to think he's explained something clearly, but it hasn't been understood. Really dangerous, actually.'
And of course in many respects he's right. It could be potentially life threatening to have a GP or indeed any kind of doctor trying to replace the role of the BSL interpreter. But I guess I wasn't assuming that would happen. I kind of saw doctors and nurses having BSL as a back-up plan, for when interpreters weren't available to avoid a complete communication breakdown, or during stays in hospital when perhaps in the middle of the night, or even just as a reassurance to a deaf person that the doctor was deaf aware, in addition to having an interpreter there, .
I also think though that The Interpreter has flagged up something else I have discovered on my campaign journey – that a lot of hearing people don't think interpreters are necessary. In fact, just the other week someone asked me whether I thought they were still relevant in medical situations or whether they could be phased out.
So perhaps what we really need is to ensure right from the start, all learner doctors are made as deaf aware as possible and taught about the importance of interpreters. If they are taught that, alongside basic BSL then hopefully they would never assume they could negate the need for an interpreter.
Which brings me on to my next bit of feedback, from the Learner Doctor. She's studying in Liverpool at the moment and just going into her 2nd year of medicine.
Turns out, this year, she has a deaf awareness module. Apparently, Liverpool is very aware that the services provided for deaf people are not adequate enough and so it feels that doctors should be educated while at med school to help improve it. As part of the module, there's a three-hour workshop on deaf awareness and how to communicate with deaf patients, plus seminars on deafness. I'm quite looking forward to hearing about how she found the module and whether she learnt anything new.
And I guess really that's my closing point, whether the training people get teaches them anything new.
What we have to ensure is that deaf awareness training comes with the input of deaf people. If I asked a hearing person to write down everything they knew about deaf awareness, it would look very different to a deaf person's list.
I hope that Liverpool Uni's module has input from deaf people and isn't just some clichéd checklist about looking at people when you talk, speaking clearly etc, because while all of this is important, there's actually loads of other things that can really make a difference.
Keep the feedback coming peeps.