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People with deafness and hearing loss still don’t enjoy full access to healthcare

19 March 2018

A new report by charity Action on Hearing Loss in Northern Ireland entitled Good Practice? has found that people with deafness and hearing loss still don’t enjoy equality of access to healthcare.

Despite guidance being issued to all GP practices 3 years ago by the Health and Social Care Board, which gave practical advice on how to make healthcare services more accessible for people with hearing loss and / or sight loss, the report has found that many GP surgeries are still falling short. The report found that nearly two-thirds (68%) of people who are deaf or have hearing loss still feel unclear about their health advice after their GP appointment, at least some of the time. Common problems were that doctors and/or nurses speak too quickly or don’t check that the patient has understood what’s been said.

A key area of concern for patients with deafness and hearing loss was booking urgent same-day appointments, with almost half (48%) of survey respondents having experienced difficulties because urgent appointments can only be booked by telephone, even though they cannot use the phone.

70% of survey respondents say they haven’t noticed any improvements over the past three years in the way GPs, nurses or other health and social care professionals communicate with them, which demonstrates that the guidance from the Health and Social Care Board has had little positive impact.

Claire Lavery, Communications and Campaigns Manager at Action on Hearing Loss Northern Ireland, said: “These findings show that in many cases patients with deafness and hearing loss are not able to contact their GP surgery easily when they require urgent advice, or to make an appointment. Over one-third of people responding to our survey have had to ask other people to call their GP surgery on their behalf, when they would prefer to be able to contact their surgery by email or by SMS. In England over half of the people responding to our survey say they receive SMS reminders about their appointments from their GP surgery. Here in Northern Ireland this kind of accessible information is not available in the majority of practices.

The report has also found that the attitudes and behaviour of doctors and nurses can also be a barrier to good communication, with many of the survey respondents feeling they may have missed out on crucial information.

In England the introduction of an Accessible Information Standard in 2016 has put the communication needs of people with invisible conditions like deafness and hearing loss on the agenda. We are calling for similar legislation in Northern Ireland to ensure our local residents with hearing loss can enjoy equal access to healthcare as in other parts of the UK.”

Download the full report


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Notes to editors

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.